On a sunny, breezy afternoon in September, students gathered in the Michigan Union Courtyard to purchase fresh produce such as apples, sweet corn, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and squash at U-M’s inaugural MFarmers’ Market.
Presented by the Michigan Student Assembly (MSA) in collaboration with University Unions, the market featured harvest from local farmers as well as giveaways, games, cooking demonstrations, and information about sustainable living.
“It can be hard to access fresh fruits and vegetables and it’s hard to know what to do with them, especially in the dorms,” says LSA senior Monica Sangal, chair of MSA’s Health Issues Commission and an organizer of the event. “So we thought that a farmers’ market would bring the fresh produce to the students and also create a dialogue about [it].”
Along with providing cooking demos, chefs were on-site to answer questions and offer tips.
“I’m showing students coming by how to preserve some of the harvest. You can go to the farmers’ market and buy a basket of tomatoes, but you can’t eat them all in one day,” says Buzz Cummings of East Quad Dining Services. “So I am showing them how to take off the skin, take out the seeds, chop them up, put them in the freezer, and perhaps use them in a month from now.”
Dale Lesser of Lesser Farms and Orchards says that he was overall pleased with the turnout and impressed that the market was a concept driven by students.
“I really didn’t expect so many people; I thought I brought way too many apples,” says Lesser. “I brought nine bushels, thinking I’d need about six. But we ended up going back [to the farm] to get eight more.”
Leaving the market with cantaloupe and red bell pepper in tow, LSA junior Elizabeth Niemczura says she appreciated the convenient location.
“There aren’t really a lot of places to get vegetables nearby without having a car. And since I don’t have one, this is a great way to buy [produce] without having to rely on my friends,” she says.
Sangal hopes the market will eventually become a permanent fixture on campus, noting that it’s a matter of health.
“As students, this is when we develop the habits that we’ll have for the rest of our lives,” she says. “If we have good habits now, we’ll be more likely to keep them in the future.”
MFarmers’ Market received support from MHealthy, Michigan Housing, University Arts and Programs, the Graham Institute, University Catering, the Student Sustainability Initiative, University Health Services, Planet Blue, and UU cash-ops.
Photos and Video Production: Natalie Condon