Student-run farmers’ market blossoms in Campus Center

By Kate Evans

University of Massachusetts sustainable living groups gathered in the Campus Center on Friday, Sept. 16, for the first official student farmers’ market of the growing season. Leafy greens, ripe tomatoes, garlic and squash were among the student-grown and organic selections for sale. The market is a new addition to the Campus Center and will be operating every Friday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. for at least the next six weeks.

The Student Farming Enterprise, Garden Share and UMass Amherst Permaculture programs represented the event in order to help promote a farm-to-table lifestyle. The three groups are UMass credit courses as a part of the Plant, Soil and Insects Department. Student passersby were provided with information while purchasing vegetables, tee shirts and hand-made jewelry on Friday.

On hand for the market was the enterprise’s extension educator Amanda Brown, who aids students in marketing their produce in the fall. Brown said she was happy to see the “student groups producing food together on campus supporting sustainability efforts.” This is the first year the Enterprise is managing a retail farmers’ market.

In addition to the farmers’ market stand, the Student Farming Enterprise – a six-credit course consisting of two one-semester sections – runs a community supported agriculture (CSA) program. CSA is a method of farming in which shareholders pay the farmer in advance and receive their shares of produce each week throughout the growing season.

The Enterprise currently has 35-members. Shares are primarily marketed towards the UMass campus, which includes students, faculty and staff. One share costs $325 for ten weeks of produce – roughly one paper bag per week.

“We’re trying to offer 10 items per week and give around 15-17 pounds [of produce] per week,” said senior Adam Sillup.

To prepare for the season, the Enterprise planned their food growth in the spring and initiated growing over the summer. Sillup estimated the Enterprise had between 20 and 25 individual salesafter two hours of being in the Campus Center on Friday.

Garden Share representatives sold Asian pears, teas, hot peppers and bean sprouting kits. The table also offered a variety of jewelry, hand-crafted by a student’s sister – the proceeds from which go to the Hadzabe women of Tanzania.

The one-credit course participants have an acre of land past Sylvan Residential Area and near the UMass Police Station for growing. Garden Share also grows produce at the UMass campus greenhouse.

Class facilitator Kaylee Brow manned the table on Friday, asking questions and selling Garden Share products. Brow is a sophomore Sustainable Food and Farming major.

UMass Permaculture is a three-credit program where students learn to grow their food in an environmentally sound manner without pesticides. “Our goal for today is to try to get the word out, and maybe sell some tee shirts,” said freshman Nutrition major Andrew Mack.

The program consists of mostly students, but volunteers are welcome as well. The six-hours-per-week course has four specific subcommittees – events, grants, conference and media. UMass Permaculture will be set up in the Campus Center every Friday for the next six weeks, but aims to have a larger table set up next week.

The farmers’ market, CSA stand and program stations will be in the concord across from the UMass Bookstore on Friday afternoons this fall.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected].