Gloria Talavera stood in front of the audience at the University of Northern Nicaragua sharing stories about her garden. This wasn’t a garden club gathering, but a celebration of achievement for Gloria and the 27 other women in Food 4 Farmers’ Healthy Home Market (Mercadito Nutri-Hogar) program with the SOPPEXCCA coffee cooperative.

Gloria and two other women from the program presented at the university’s food security festival, a 2-day event with a food fair and presentations from 11 Nicaraguan organizations.

The event marked the first time that Gloria had ever presented in front of an audience. While all Food 4 Farmers projects share a goal of improving food security, there are also more strategic aims, like nurturing a new crop of confident women leaders.

At one point during her presentation, a member of the audience challenged Gloria, disputing her assertion that the huge lettuce she displayed could have been produced organically. Gloria responded with a detailed description of the agroecological and organic practices employed in her vegetable gardens. With that, the audience no longer questioned her expertise, nor that of the other women who were trained through SOPPEXCCA’s food security program.

Over the past two years of this program, we’ve witnessed strong progress. Most gardens are in good shape, despite strong rains and other challenges. Lettuce, garlic and other vegetables tucked behind houses or close to coffee plants are plentiful, and the women are planning for three harvests per year.

Their work culminated last November with the launch of the Mercadito Nutri-Hogar, where surplus produce was sold at the co-op headquarters. Invitations were extended to cooperative staff and community members, as well as area restaurant owners. The women created promotional posters and advertised to promote the event. Reusable produce bags were given to visitors who spent more than 100 cordobas on produce.

The launch of the market was a great success with a wide variety of goods on offer, including garlic, lettuce, chicory, herbs and spices, citrus and plantains, as well as homemade tamales and tortas. Vendors earned nearly 8,000 cordobas, and sold out in 3 hours.

The market does more than provide access to healthy, affordable food. It’s laying the groundwork for strong women leaders like Gloria, who can now rely on her knowledge and small business skills to create a healthier future.

Food 4 Farmers will continue to strengthen the foundation of this local food venture by delivering new seedlings to the group, providing support and training for gardens management, conducting a baseline survey with Soppexcca, and continuing to help sustain and grow this important new resource.

Many thanks to Philz Coffee, Java Jog Foundation, Cafe Moto, crema.co, and Equator Coffees for making this dream a reality for the women of SOPPEXCCA.

Read more about SOPPEXCCA’s work here.