Perspectives Online

Campus Farmers Market has good fall season

Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno of Crop Science shops for meat at the Mae Farms table. Eric Ballard, left, who now works for Mae Farms, helped get the market started last year when he was a student.
Photo by Natalie Hampton

On Wednesdays this past fall, lunchtime visitors to the Brickyard were greeted by something new. In addition to the usual student groups and Gospel preachers, the Brickyard was home last semester to the Campus Farmers Market.

The market is a student-driven initiative, designed to educate and help build a local food economy within the university. Five regular vendors have sold everything from seafood and meat to fruits and vegetables, to milk and eggs, to soaps and lotions.

The idea for the market was developed last year by Eric Ballard, now a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alumnus who works for one of the market vendors. As associate director of student government’s Sustainability Commission, Ballard proposed starting a farmers market on the Brickyard and worked to recruit vendors for the effort. The market was offered once last spring as part of campus Earth Day activities.

The purpose of that first market, in addition to providing a campus source for local food, was education – letting the campus community know the benefits of buying local foods. Agroecology students of Dr. Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, CALS assistant professor of crop science, developed educational materials that were handed out at the event.

Because there was still work to be done before the market officially opened this fall, Ballard’s summer internship with the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, allowed him to complete a market handbook, vendor agreements and a schedule for the fall market.

Brickyard customers purchase produce from Wise Farms
Photo Natalie Hampton
When the market opened this semester, Ballard was back, this time as a sales person for one of the vendors, Mae Farms of Franklin County. Each week, Ballard sells local milk, eggs and pasture-raised pork products at the market.

Ballard says he has been pleased with sales this semester. “The first thing I noticed is that sales are consistent and steadily increasing,” he said. Special events attract more customers, he said. Before Halloween, market visitors were invited to paint a pumpkin. On Nov. 18, the last day of the fall market season, caramel apples were available.

This year, Ariel Fugate, a sophomore majoring in fisheries and wildlife, is managing the market for student government. Each week, she sends market updates to a list of faithful market shoppers. Recently, the market’s Student Board developed a market Web site to provide recipes and information on weekly products and the market’s farms and vendors. Students visited the farms to take photos and develop profiles of the farm operations. For vendors, the market Web site includes links to a market application and a vendors’ handbook.

“I think it’s gone really well,” Fugate said of this semester’s market. “There’s been a good mix of faculty and students buying, without a lot of advertising.”

Though the market closed in November, it reopens during the spring semester. Fugate says the plan is to keep the market open mid-February through mid-May, when most students leave for the summer, and to reopen when classes start back for fall.

—Natalie Hampton