Thanks to Grace Reff and The East Tennessean for the article!
Students will soon be able to load up on fresh and local food without leaving campus with the start of The Farmers Market at ETSU on April 5. The market will be held on Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the parking lot between the D.P. Culp Center and Student Health Services.
Ten vendors from within 100 miles of campus are expected to sell at the market. The market is producer-only, which means vendors can only sell foods they have grown or made themselves.
The initial idea to bring a farmers market to campus came to founder Rachel Ward in September 2011. “My classmates and I were walking to lunch and discussing the types of foods that are readily available on campus,” she said. “Aramark provides some great options, but we all agreed that it would be nice to have more local foods available for lunch and snacks.
“We also discussed our desire for more of a campus ‘hub’ where students can gather around events during the regular workweek. “As someone who is already very passionate about food and cooking, this triggered my exploration into the possibility of having a farmers market on our campus as a way to provide access to fresh, local foods, and foster a sense of community among patrons.”
As a public health student, Ward says she was also interested in understanding reasons behind the country’s poor health and hopes that the farmers market can be used as a teaching tool.
“There is a lot of ongoing research on the utility of farmers markets for introducing healthy foods to communities,” Ward said. “Young adulthood is a critical time for developing healthy behaviors, and from my experience, this is a time when many people become unbalanced in all aspects of life, from food to stress, etc. I’m hopeful that the farmers market will be an innovative way to teach students about where their food comes from, moderation, and developing healthy, balanced lifestyles.”
The concept of “seasonality” is something Ward hopes to teach market patrons, as well. “We’re promoting local foods, so you won’t find bananas here, and tomatoes won’t be around until late summer,” she said. “In the spring, you can expect to see a variety of goat cheeses, breads, baked goods, eggs, dried chiles, meats and prepared pastas. We will also have local groups who will teach about gardening, raising chickens, canning vegetables and other homesteading practices.”
The idea of an on-campus farmers market is not new. Farmers markets are becoming increasingly common on college campuses throughout the country. Ward worked closely with managers at farmers markets at North Carolina State University and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Both schools have successful on-campus farmers markets and were extremely helpful to Ward during the market development phase of the ETSU market.
Ward says the process to bring a farmers market to campus required much more work than she had initially thought: “From developing a proposal with the support of ETSU’s administrators, to recruiting vendors and forming a student organization, it has been quite the endeavor.
“However, I am hopeful that thorough work will pay off and make this something that will last for years to come. I have a wonderful group of friends and faculty who have helped at every step. Plus, there are some amazing farmers and like-minded groups in our community who have graciously shared their feedback and support.”
“At this point, we hope to involve more students from across campus. Ideally, this is something that our faculty, staff and students will truly ‘own’ and come to love as much as I do.”
Fortunately, Ward has help from about 15 other people, including students from the College of Public Health, the Honors College, and the Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program, but says they are definitely looking for more student involvement from the undergraduate community.
The market currently has room for 15 booths. Students and student groups cannot sell at the market, but student groups have the opportunity to “sponsor a market,” in which student groups assist with market-day operations in exchange for free booth space.