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May 7, 2016

UMass to host farmers’ markets every Friday

The University of Massachusetts Campus Center concourse, in the area directly across from the University Store, will serve as the home for a weekly farmers’ market, beginning this Friday at noon.

The market was established in an effort to increase the UMass community’s exposure to sustainable food, said Nell Finnigan, one of the event’s organizers. Members of the UMass Student Farm will be on hand to sell produce as well as drop off community-supported agriculture (CSA) shares each week. The farm’s members will be joined by UMass Permaculture and Garden Share.

The fresh produce sold weekly by the farm at the markets will include kale, tomato, small basil plants, broccoli, potatoes, squash, leeks and salad plants, said Finnigan. UMass Permaculture will also be selling a variety of herbs as well as t-shirts, and Garden Share will sell items such as kale, Asian pears and dried tea mixes, she said.

Organizers of the event are hopeful the markets will provide an opportunity for more students, faculty and staff to become involved with sustainability on-campus.

“What I’d like to see from this market is dialogue,” said Nathan Aldrich, an auxiliary services sustainability specialist and co-leader of UMass Permaculture. “Part of the point of this market and the sustainability work we do in general is to show students how much power they truly have at UMass. Students can create a lot of change … and by focusing locally, [they] can make a huge impact.”

The market began a joint-coordinated effort between Aldrich and Auxiliary Services, which is led by Ken Toong. Aldrich’s original intention was to find a new central home for the farm’s CSA program. Community members who buy shares in the farm receive new produce each week, but the previous pick-up location was in the basement of Bowditch hall, far on the west side of campus.

But after learning that the farm could have weekly access to the Campus Center space for share pick-ups, Aldrich decided his organization could use the space additionally to host weekly farmers’ markets.

Finnigan said the market has been a dream of hers and her colleagues for the past year, and she is excited to finally see it become a reality.

“[The markets are] like a nucleus for us to organize around,” she said. “We’re all doing awesome things but we struggled to find an area where we could come together and support each other.”

“Nathan started to see there was a void …This market needed to happen and it’s needed to happen for a long time,” she said. This fall, she continued, “the environmental conditions were perfect. It was a perfect storm.”

The UMass Student Farm, founded in 2007, is a “serious practicum designed to educate the next generation of farmers,” said Aldrich. The student farmers work on multiple acres at the farm, located in South Deerfield. The farm produces food for CSAs, Earthfoods Café and sometimes dining commons, he said.

UMass Permaculture turns “grass on campus into beautiful productive gardens,” Aldrich said. However, according to Aldrich, UMass Permaculture’s goals also have an educational agenda.

“We usually don’t have a large amount of growing space so our goal is not to feed the campus but rather to educate the campus,” he said. “[We] can change paradigms – where food is grown, how food is grown, who is growing food. We’re very visible on campus … We have the opportunity to change how people think about food.”

The Garden Share program is an RSO and one-credit practicum available to any UMass student, said Aldrich. It provides students a chance to work together on a community garden in Amherst.

In addition to supporting groups at the Friday markets, Aldrich stressed that students still have the opportunity to become involved with the other organizations.

UMass Permaculture holds open volunteer hours at the garden adjacent to the Franklin Dining Commons on Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Anyone interested can contact them at info@umasspermaculture.com, Aldrich said.

Students can still register for the Garden Share program until add/drop period ends, he added.

And there are still CSA shares available, said Finnigan. Shares contain various forms of produce but average between 17 and 20 pounds a week, she said. The program lasts 10 weeks, beginning this Friday and ending the Friday before Thanksgiving. Interested parties can contact the farm at studentfarm.enterprise@gmail.com.

Chris Shores can be reached at cshores@dailycollegian.com.

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