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Maureen McDonnell, Virginia’s First Lady, Recognizes Farm to Family/BusFarm

Virginia's First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Mark Lilly, Farm to Family
Virginia’s First Lady Maureen McDonnell and Mark Lilly, Farm to Family at the 2010 Virginia Weight of the State Obesity Conference

Virginia’s First LadyMaureen McDonnell, recently sent a letter of  recognition for the efforts Farm to Family and BusFarm are making towards encouraging people to eat healthy and become more food secure. We first met Mrs. McDonnell when she visited the Farm Bus at the Virginia Weight of the State Conference in May, 2010. We are very grateful for her ongoing support for Farm to Family/BusFarm and her sincere dedication to the good health and well being for all the people of Virginia.

Weight of the State honorary chairwoman was Virginia First Lady, Maureen McDonnell. We were honored to have her visit the Farm to Family bus. Mark was one of the pre-conference speakers, and everyone got an opportunity to tour the bus.

Photos courtesy of the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth.

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Victory In the Garden Fundraiser with Will Allen – Local Foods Dinner

Suzi and Mark Lilly, Farm to Family, and Will Allen, CEO/Founder of Growing Power. We are so grateful for Will’s mentorship and friendship.

 Will Allen, Founder/CEO of Growing Power and author of the book, The Good Food Revolution, was Farm to Family’s very special guest speaker at our first fundraiser for our non-profit farm and urban agriculture training center, BusFarm, on Saturday, July 14th at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown in Richmond,  VA. Other speakers included Liz Reitzig, activist for farm food freedom, and Mike Peterson, chef and farm manager at Mount Vernon Grassfed, in Sperryville, VA. Lisa Taranto of the Office of Urban Ecology, was our emcee.

Virginia’s First Lady, Maureen McDonnell, sent a letter of  recognition for the efforts Farm to Family and BusFarm are making towards encouraging people to eat healthy and become more food secure. We are very grateful for her support for Farm to Family/BusFarm and her dedication for the good health and wellbeing for all the people of Virginia. The local foods dinner, an amazing gastronomic delight (really the best meal we’ve had all year!!) and was artfully prepared by Hilton Garden Inn Downtown’s Executive Chef, Willie Miller and featured foods from Farm to Family farms and vendors: Polyface Farms,  Prospect Farm, Rain or Shine Greenhouse Gardens, Twin Oaks Community Foods, Rappahannock River Oysters and Clams, Tuckahoe Lamb and Cattle Company, Promised Land Pastures, Farm to Family’s Bus Farm, Plantation Acres,  Agriberry,  Saunders Bros., HopeWater, Sam Kirby, Flores Farm, Rocking F Farm, Amy’s Garden and Flour Garden Bakery.

Silent Auction items inspired some fevered bidding, good natured pushing and shoving, and were creative and fun.  We are grateful for the generous donations from our friends at: Bellytimber TavernBlanchards Coffee Roasters, Jimmy Snead at Blowtoad, Chastity Hise at Clippi Headren, Jason and Chris at Comfort, DeluxEuropaFlavor MagazineHappy the ArtistHill CaféKrishon ChocolatesLamplighter Roasting Company, Lisa Taranto/Office of Urban Ecology, MezzaninePam D’Arcy, Jason Alley and Joe Sparatta at Pasture , Victoria DeRoche and Stephanie Ganz at Pizza TonightRiver City Wild FoodsRural RevolutionSausage CraftTaste BudsThe Hard ShellTuckahoe Lamb and Cattle CompanyUrban Backyard EdiblesThe Water Grill and Catherine Long at Old Church Creamery.

Farm to Family and BusFarm are extremely grateful to all of our friends, family and supporters. We wish to extend special thanks to the following for their generous assistance and support: Will Allen and Growing PowerFirst Lady Maureen McDonnellAllen, Allen, Allen & Allen, Taylor Weirup Marketing, Lisa + Diego Cusano, Lisa Taranto, Bill Cavender, Elli Morris Photography, Happy the Artist, Patty Parks, Denise and Larry Miller, Jenny and Ranny Heflin, Cynthia Sanford, Steph Beer, The Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Richmond and the amazing Kathryn MacDonald, Chef Willie Miller and  Map Roeung, Mark Troxell Trio, John Miles, Marissa Marklevitz, James Luggen, Patsy Arnett, Sarah Headley, Flavor MagazineMolly MacDonald Peterson, Retail Merchants Association, Kat Simmons/Lite 98, Kevin Brown/Liberation Wellness Hour, Style Weekly, Richmond Times Dispatch,  Natural Awakenings, Kimberly HartkeKristin Canby/Farmageddon, Beckie Sukes, Brooks Godwin, Tracy Jacobs, Emily Krause, Danielle Barnes, David Irving, Krissy Etz, Kenny Albiston, Sarah Orr,  the Selby Family, Laurie Lay, Jayme Aronberg, John Lewis, Vicki Campbell, the Swinson Family, the Miles Family, Melissa Krumbein/Kitchen Thyme, Jean Johnson – The Measure Free Hippie Cook, Slow Food RVA, Addie Brugger, Tunji Barlatt, Heather Harker, Arc Printing, RVA Local Patronage Cash Mob, Debra Tokarz, Thinking of You Creations, Mayor’s Youth Academy Urban Gardeners, Dexter Sells, Rob Snead and of all of our farmers, artisans, vendors, USA  Farm Share members, customers as well as our social media followers at home and around the world.

In Loving Memory of Fred.

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Farm to Family’s Mark Lilly with Kevin Brown on “The Liberation Wellness Hour”

Mark Lilly speaks with Kevin Brown about the Farm Bus fundraiser event scheduled for July 14th featuring Will Allen, from the movie “FRESH”  and Liz Reitzig from the movie “Farmageddon”


Farm to Family – Will Allen – Liz Reitzig – Liberation Wellness Hour

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Change Comes to Dinner

Change Comes to Dinner is a new book about sustainable food by Katherine Gustafson which was released on May 8, 2012 by St. Martin’s Press. Mark and Farm to Family are featured in Chapter 1. Katherine is a DC based journalist who visited with us in 2010 a few months after we had started Farm to Family, and traveled to the farms we work with, including Polyface Farm. Katherine also did a YouTube video of her time with us, which illustrates the first chapter of the book including the Polyface bee swatting incident.

Change Comes to Dinner is a fascinating exploration of America’s food innovators, that gives us hopeful alternatives to the industrial food system described in works like Michael Pollan’s bestselling Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Change Comes to Dinner takes readers into the farms, markets, organizations, businesses and institutions across America that are pushing for a more sustainable food system in America.

Gustafson introduces food visionaries like Mark, who turned a school bus into a locally-sourced mobile grocery store in Richmond, Virginia; Gayla Brockman, who organized a program to double the value of food stamps used at Kansas City, Missouri, farmers’ markets; Myles Lewis and Josh Hottenstein, who started a business growing vegetables in shipping containers using little water and no soil; and Tony Geraci, who claimed unused land to create the Great Kids Farm, where Baltimore City public school students learn how to grow food and help Geraci decide what to order from local farmers for breakfast and lunch at the city schools.

Change Comes to Dinner is a smart and engaging look into America’s food revolution. Check out what critics and other writers of the food revolution are saying about Change Comes to Dinner.

You can purchase Change Comes to Dinner at your favorite local bookseller, or online at Amazon.

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Farm to Family: Beginning, by Mark Lilly

“People think of a bus as transportation,” said Zane Kesey, son of Ken Kesey, when speaking of his father’s 1960s odyssey cross-country in a magic school bus. He continued, “No. It’s a platform, a way to get your messages across.”

“Furthur,” the bus that was named from the combination of further and future, led a revolution in the early 60s and changed the consciousness of future generations. If we’re lucky, we eventually find our “furthur” destiny. We eventually find that job, that cause, that passion, that fills our life with joy and satisfaction.

I did just that in June of 2009 and founded Farm to Family. The “Veggie Bus,” as folks have nicknamed it, is a means of transporting food for the people, but in itself, is a vehicle that creates awareness and a way of life. I know it’s changed lives, because people tell me that it has. It’s changed mine, and there has been no looking back since the day I started.

I’m lucky to have found my destiny. After stints in the Marines and Army, college and traveling, after 20 years working in the food industry and getting no real fulfillment from it, I decided that I needed to let the universe know that I wasn’t happy and needed a change. That change finally came after losing my job in May 2009 and with my recent studies at the University of Richmond in disaster science I was primed, and empowered to start my vision. I started Farm to Family.

The idea is simple and direct. I will tell you without hesitation, it can help change the world for the better.

Conceptually, I’ve created a perfect local, sustainable food distribution system that can penetrate any demographic area in any city or town with nutritious, tasty, organic, local food. At the same time, I’m educating people on how it will benefit their health and support their community. I also tell how best to prepare what they purchase and how to make themselves and their family more food secure.

And I do it all from an old 1987 school bus that I bought for $3,500 off I retrofitted it with reclaimed lumber from an old barn, added bushel baskets, burlap, and chicken wire and created a mobile farmers market with a country store theme.

I source local products from family, friends or anyone that grows clean food within a 150-mile radius of where I am located in Richmond, VA. I build relationships with local farmers, drive to their farm, load up the bus, and then distribute it into the urban landscape through set routes. I post where I’m going to be, and what I have on the bus, and sometimes a photo on Twitter and Facebook, and then my shoppers come running. Literally. One girl fell and hurt herself running to catch the bus. So I decided she needed a house call.

There are other times I do house calls. We had some pretty bad snowstorms this past winter in Richmond. Everyone was snowbound. But the Veggie Bus has massive snow tires, so off I went powering through the snowdrifts. Neighborhoods would join forces, neighbors would call each other, call me, the post would go on Facebook, and then fresh produce would arrive at their doorstep, in the middle of the blizzard. I would drive up and everyone would come piling out of the houses in their snow boots. The kids would play store on the bus, taking turns weighing produce, and pretending to drive. Everyone would be excited and giddy. And dinner would be delicious, fresh, organic and local.

I also take food stamps, allowing low-income families and seniors, who may otherwise not have access, to buy fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. I also visit schools with the bus, bring small farm animals like chickens and rabbits, hand out free seeds, and teach children about real food. They learn what it is looks and feels like in its natural, fresh from the farm form, and why it’s important they get involved and learn to make wiser choices.

My journey on the bus has just begun, and I eagerly wait every day to see what fresh insight and “furthur” adventures it will bring me, and the people I encounter on my magic “Veggie Bus.”

Mark Lilly is the founder of Farm to Family, a mobile farmer’s market in a retrofitted school bus that delivers fresh , local, organic produce to urban neighborhoods, and also offers CSA memberships in Richmond ,VA. In addition to regular route stops, he also visits schools, retirement homes, and workplaces teaching the importance of fresh, local, sustainable food and encouraging people to support local farmers. In addition to local news, he has been featured on BBC World News, and has upcoming features in People and Country Livng magazines.

Mark has a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and spent 3 years in the US Marines and 3 in the US Army. He lives in Richmond, VA. You can read more about Mark and Farm to Family at

Mark Lilly, “Farm to Family: Beginning,” Huffington Post, April 27, 2010.