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October 17, 2017

Community and local goods mix at student farmer’s market

(Andrew Graham/ Daily Collegian)

We aren’t even halfway through September, but it already feels like fall at the student farmer’s market. Pumpkins sit near a tent as everyone tries to keep cool in the early fall heat. It looks like autumn, but it still feels like the last bit of summer for students. Two students, sustainable food and farming major Kyle Zegel and electrical engineering major Trevor Berry, played drums as students mingled about the lawn.

Walking around the farmer’s market, every red and blue tent decorating Goodell Lawn was busy. Among the tents were The UMass Student Farm, UMass Permaculture, University of Massachusetts Hydro, UMass Freedom Cafe, SU Pop-up Thrift Shop, art by Abby Bonnanzio, jewelry by Renee Vartebedian, Sustainability Projects abroad, UMOC, UMass Society of American Foresters and the Food Recovery Network.

While countless students at the farmer’s market came to browse and enjoy the fresh iced coffee provided by the Freedom Cafe, I had another agenda. I was there to collect my CSA farm share from the UMass Student Farm.

After purchasing my farm share in April, I’ve been so excited to get back to school and have fresh vegetables every week for my apartment—and judging by the crowds, I’m not alone in my enthusiasm.

I watched as the student farmers unpacked their abundance of crops in their matching hunter green shirts advertising the farm. You could tell that they were a tight-knit group of individuals who were genuinely interested and passionate about what they were doing.

Matthew Yee, a junior food science major, and Julia Opel, a student from Mt. Holyoke College, commented on the turnout saying, “It’s great, we finally get to see actual people who are going to be getting our produce instead of growing it all summer.”

“This is like the climactic event,” Opel said.

“This is the backbone of the program like the CSA and giving our produce to the community and to students and faculty around campus,” Yee said. Unfortunately, there are no available farm shares for this season, but the Student Farm still sells crops in a tent next to the farm share pick-up location for anyone to buy. This week, they were also selling sunflowers, which were quickly bought up by students.

According to Yee, getting involved in the program is as easy as filling out an application on the Stockbridge website. “You don’t have to be in Stockbridge,” Yee said. “I’m a food science major and I was able to join the program because I love growing food and vegetables.” Five College Students are also eligible for the program.

Produce not your jam? The UMass Freedom Cafe, SU Pop-up Thrift Shop, art by Abby Bonnanzio and jewelry by Renee Vartebedian offered options apart from your typical farmer’s market tents. The Pop-Up Thrift Store was my favorite surprise of the farmer’s market. They had so many great vintage pieces, each for less than $5.

An added convenience of the student-run farmer’s market was the on-sight credit card reader. The system works so that you can use your credit or debit card to purchase tokens that can in turn be used to purchase merchandise at the event.

I also had the chance to speak with the woman in charge of organizing the student farmer’s market, Xochiquetzal Salazar, who is the Sustainability Coordinator of Campus Gardens.

Salazar works with UMass Permaculture and collaborates with the student farmers to orchestrate the market. I had the chance to talk to her about how businesses and groups can get involved, as well as what the student farmer’s market is all about.

The farmer’s market advertises through social media and email, as well as through word-of-mouth. If you or your group are interested in having a tent at the student farmer’s market, you’re encouraged to fill out a Google Form that is then reviewed by the market organizers. Chairs and tents are provided for vendors.

“We’re really trying to create a platform for students to sell goods that they have either grown or produced to the community,” Salazar said. “We really want to have people from a great number of disciplines come together in this community space and make it a really vibrant, exciting and fun place on campus.”

When asked what her favorite part about the student farmer’s market is, Salazar said, “The community it brings together. I think that’s really beautiful and special and it’s really special to have this student space on campus where people can play music and have fun and sell their goods.”

The student-run farmer’s market puts emphasis on creating a warm and inclusive community environment, which is an extraordinary thing on such a large campus. I’m looking forward to countless memories, fresh produce and a sense of inclusivity—even in the smallest way—this fall.

Emilia Beuger is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at ebeuger@umass.edu and followed on twitter @ebeuger.

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