Inspirational. Visionary. Community-driven. All words that describe Michael Barnes, founder and CEO of Yard Sale Produce in Lackawanna, NY. Founded in 2009, Yard Sale Produce is a non-profit organization that aims to make affordable, fresh produce available to low-income communities with their farmers market.
“My vision is to increase community involvement and promote nutrition while having fun.” – Michael Barnes
When Michael first had the idea for Yard Sale Produce in 2009, his sole concept was to reduce the plight of urban deserts. Lackawanna has many families who do not achieve their daily nutritional values. Much of Michael’s neighborhood lacks the resources, such as transportation and nutritional education, needed to optimize health. There are three stores in his neighborhood, but none of them sell produce.
“They all sell soda, chips, and candies — there’s no lettuce, tomatoes, onions, apples, or oranges.” – Michael Barnes
Michael enjoys bringing quality produce options to residents of Lackawanna, NY — specifically the First Ward district and the senior population. Because of his hard work and collaboration with local farmers, leaders, wholesale distributors, and store owners, Michael has been able to provide this community with healthier options at below-market prices.
Michael is a recent client of Pamela James, Business Development Director at CAO’s Masten Resource Center. She admires Michael’s ambition and his value of passing down healthy habits from generation to generation.
“As far as African people — the migrations of African people, this is what we used to do — even before slavery. We were agrarian people, agrarian self-sufficient societies that grew our fruits and vegetables. We raised our children showing them how to be healthy.” – Pamela James
Yard Sale Produce operates as a farmers market six months of the year thanks to students and community volunteers who plant, grow, and cultivate fruits and vegetables on Michael’s private half-acre plot of land. His aunt purchased the land after retiring from Mercy Hospital. She was a godsend in the community, adopting children and offering families a home as needed. Michael will continue her commitment to the community by expanding Yard Sale Produce, passing down the knowledge and land to the next generation in his family.
“My work is important because there is a nutritional deficiency in the community. I always tell the youth that if you take care of your body when you’re young, you reap the benefits later.” – Michael Barnes
Yard Sale Produce even offers adults a blueprint to start their own produce stores or markets. Michael explains the entire process and enjoys enlightening entrepreneurs about the administrative portion that is necessary to launch.
Michael has over 30 years of hospitality experience in a managerial and executive capacity, and more than 10 years in community organizing and agriculture management. He has big goals for the future. He envisions the market offering smoothies, varieties of peanuts, and even baked bread. He wants to expand his reach and offer information on nutrition for the youth in the area. He’s working on collaborations to offer low-sugar and healthier versions of cupcakes and pastries.
With the help of Pamela, Michael has developed a targeted business plan, which includes expanding Yard Sale Produce’s footprint throughout the Tri-State area by 2026. He currently is seeking funding for an indoor space that can facilitate an indoor farmers market in the city of Lackawanna, NY, year-round. He is dedicated to formulating his organization’s model into something that can be implemented not only across the United States, but on a global scale.
CAO is proud of his important work, and the Business Development team at the Masten Resource Center will continue to help Michael reach his vision.
Hungry for fresh produce and words of wisdom? Visit the Yard Sale Produce Farmers Market at 142 Wilson Street, Lackawanna, NY 14218. They are open Tuesday – Sunday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.
142 Wilson Street
Call (716) 717-7115 for more information or to place an order for delivery.