This Saturday, April 1, the Vilonia Handmade & Homegrown Market will be the first seasonal market to open for the year in our area! The awesome folks managing Vi-lonia Handmade & Homegrown have been busy receiving grants and sponsorships to grow their visibility and programming - which means more affordable local food for us!

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides benefits to low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities. SNAP is the largest program working to help families and children combat hunger. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) works with state agencies, nutrition educa-tors, and neighborhood and faith-based organizations to ensure that those eligible for nutrition assistance can make informed decisions about applying for the pro-gram and can access benefits.

The infrastructure to accept SNAP benefits can be difficult and expensive to set up, so not all farmers markets accept them, limiting the number of folks who are able to enjoy the benefits and access to food from our local farmers. Because of that, it’s pretty incredible that the Vilonia Handmade & Homegrown folks will not only ac-cept SNAP benefits all season long, but they will also have SNAP representatives on hand this Saturday to help folks get signed up.

Beginning in May, Vilonia Handmade & Homegrown will offer a new program for children: Power of Produce (POP). POP is free and will encourage children to engage with local farmers, try new foods and learn about the benefits of local produce. Fun activities such as scavenger hunts, experiments and food samples will be offered.

While you’re thinking about eating more produce, my "recipe" offering this week is a simple-yet-impressive Bruschetta Bar.

Bruschetta Bar: Thanks to some awesome folks at Whole Foods, I was inspired to put together a bruschetta bar that anyone can replicate. Make some toast and rub it with garlic, marinate some tomatoes, slice a pear and some radishes, and gather a few pantry items. The garlic essence on the toasts provided just a little "something extra" and goes well with both sweet and savory options. For the jam, I recommend champagne jelly from Maria’s Homemade Country Fare – it is quite perfect with goat cheese and pear and so, so pretty.

If you’re looking for local ingredients, check out the "market update" for details on our two year-round farmers markets – and consider visiting Vilonia on Saturday!

Bruschetta Bar



• 1 ciabatta loaf

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Garlic cloves

Marinated Tomatoes

• Cherry tomatoes

• Salt

• Pepper

• Balsamic vinegar reduction

• Optional: Spicy sprouts

Radish & Watercress

• Radishes

• Watercress

More Toppings

• Crumbled goat cheese

• Dried apricots

• Sliced pear

• Jelly

Method: Toasts

1. Pre-heat oven to 350F. Slice ciabatta loaf into quarter- or half-inch slices. Brush, drizzle, or spray both sides of each slice with olive oil. Place on baking sheet.

2. Bake for 2-3 minutes, flip and bake for another 2-3 minutes, or until toast reaches desired toasted level.

3. Slice garlic clove in half. While toast is hot, rub one side of each slice with garlic.

4. If desired, cut each toast slice in half.

Method: Marinated Tomatoes

1. Rinse and pat cherry tomatoes dry. Quarter and place in bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a balsamic vinegar reduction. If using, toss in a pinch of chopped sprouts. Let marinate for 5 minutes or longer.

Method: Radish & Watercress

1. Scrub radishes and pat dry. Slice thinly with mandolin or knife. Toss with rinsed and dried watercress.

Method: Finish & Assemble

1. Put crumbled goat cheese and marinated tomatoes in small bowls and the rest of the goodies onto a serving tray.

2. Spread a four toasts with cheese and top – one with marinated tomatoes, one with radish and watercress, one with dried apricots, and one with sliced pear and a dollop of jam – to provide a guide/example for guests.