When Aliza Brunsing walked into the West Point Chamber of Commerce office with a hope and dream to start a local farmers market, she had no idea—nor intention—of being recognized for her efforts down the line.
After brainstorming with a like-minded chamber member, the West Point Farmers Market, which had had many reincarnations over the years, was revitalized, with Aliza volunteering as manager. Her efforts to offer this inclusive, family-friendly, educational, community-driven event were noticed by her neighbors, as well as the Center for Rural Affairs.
Due to her dedication, Aliza has been chosen as the Center for Rural Affairs 2021 Rural Community Champion.
The award is presented to a person who works with the Center to make extraordinary contributions in building engagement within his or her own community. People who receive this award provide a model for innovation, stewardship, or community development.
Aliza’s efforts reach beyond the farmers market. She hosted a farm tour for emerging farmers, helped the Chamber of Commerce with a new mural on kindness, and organized a Farm to Fork showcase dinner featuring menu items from farmers market vendors and other local food producers.
Sandra Renner, Farm and Community director with the Center, said Aliza has been instrumental in expanding the West Point Farmers Market.
“What used to be a very informal market with two to three vendors has blossomed into a weekly event that the community looks forward to,” said Sandra. “When coordinating family-friendly activities for the market and soliciting vendors, as well as consumers, she cultivated and helped nourish a culture of inclusivity by ensuring the market was accessible and welcoming to all of its visitors.”
Inclusion efforts included not only ethnicity and language, but also age, as Aliza encouraged youth to become vendors. Market correspondence and outreach has also been provided in both English and Spanish to reach all members of the community.
“The farmers market will be coming back to our community this summer, and I look forward to helping with it for years to come,” said Aliza. “I was able to participate in the farmers market as a vendor selling our farm-fresh eggs, jellies, jams, fresh produce, and a few other products. My family is working hard to grow our little farm business, and we are always excited to try growing new things and keeping the community informed of where their food comes from.”
She continues to promote shopping locally and building up small businesses, and recognizes that the success of her endeavors has become a community effort.
“I believe keeping our local producers, makers, and small businesses alive and thriving will keep our community growing and a great place to live,” Aliza said. “Receiving this award is truly an honor and I am humbled that I was considered. We have been graced with a wonderful group of people who truly want to see our town flourish, and I have learned so much from all of them. Working with people who are so passionate about our community really inspired the farmers market to become what it was. It was truly a group effort and I loved being a part of it.”
Aliza received her award at the West Point Chamber of Commerce’s annual banquet, Partners in Progress, on Feb. 20.