Farmer’s market opens for business on campus

by Liala Helal

University students and employees who complain about not having healthy foods on campus will be given an alternative starting today.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, some organic, will be available along with fresh-cut flowers at the University’s first farmer’s market.

The market is meant to add options for healthy eating on campus and encourage people to exercise.

“It shows that the University cares about health, and they are willing to offer something like this to promote the well-being of all employees and students,” said University student and farmer’s market coordinator Jill Thielen.

Many groups on campus have tried to have a farmer’s market before, but the numerous steps required made it difficult.

“The hardest part was having to go through so many different channels,” Thielen said. “There are so many different people you have to talk to, and each person you talk to has five more people you have to talk to in order to get approval and to get things accomplished.”

Market organizers had to find vendors, choose a location that complies with University regulations and make sure the market didn’t violate environmental health and safety regulations.

Health Advocates, a student group offered through Boynton Health Service, also helped organize the farmer’s market.

“We had to cut through a lot of red tape to make the market happen,” said Patty Dickmann, University student and member of Health Advocates farmers’ market project.

She said the group picked a broad area of nutrition to help the University community.

“We thought a great way to enhance nutrition at the ‘U’ would be to start a farmer’s market on campus, which is something we’ve never had before,” she said.

The biggest challenge was to build relationships with vendors, who were somewhat reluctant because the market would be the University’s first. Finding a good location that would allow the vendors to bring in trucks was also a challenge, Dickmann said.

One of the 12 vendors will have organic fruits and vegetables grown by University students on a farm on the St. Paul campus. The student group, What’s Up in Sustainable Agriculture, started the farm.

“I think it’s great that we’re able to have a student farm on campus and then actually sell to our fellow students at the farmer’s market,” said farm manager Jared Ashling.

At the market, the student farm, called Corner Copia, will sell lettuce, sugar-snap peas, spinach, broccoli, carrots and fruit, as well as herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil. Throughout the season, the farm will get 30 varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

The farm currently sells to two local restaurants, several co-ops and the Hopkins School District. In a few years, the farm will become a Department of Agriculture certified organic farm.

University student and Health Advocates member Akash Desai said the market is a “really good idea.”

“The shops around here are kind of crappy, and they don’t have anything really nice,” he said. “Hopefully the stuff at the farmer’s market will be cheaper and really fresh, and it would definitely be nice to have a healthy alternative.”

The market cost $8,000 but will cost much less next year, said Deb Stull Erickson, communications project manager at the University’s Office of Human Resources. To comply with the University’s health and safety regulations, each vending station will have hand-washing stations, but the majority of the budget went to developing the program.

The market is located on the Church Street Mall and will run from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday until August 24.