This article has been amended for clarity.
Buying groceries right on campus has become a reality for U of A students, thanks to a regular bi-weekly farmers’ market taking place in SUB.
Organized by Sustain SU, a Students’ Union service providing sustainability services to the campus community, the market is the result of two pilot farmers’ markets that took place last year.
Director of Sustain SU Stephy Sylvestre said based on the strong turnout at these events and research data from a Community Service-Learning component of a Faculty of ALES course, Sustain SU decided to launch a year-long farmers’ market program this year.
“The Students’ Union recognized (there was) a gap between food availability on campus and the accessibility of healthy, diverse and local food,” she said.
She added that with a regular farmers’ market, Sustain SU can fulfil its mandate to promote sustainability in a holistic way.
Sylvestre added that Sustain SU formed a vendor selection committee this summer which determined a list of values of the market, such as providing accessible food, diversity, healthy options and promoting education and awareness. From this list they decided which vendors to feature in this year’s markets.
“We try to select vendors who sell food which students and staff would be interested in eating,” she said. “Something that’s really accessible to everyone regardless of their budget, time constraints or cultural background. We want to make sure there’s food available for everybody.”
There were 16 market vendors in total coming from Edmonton, Calgary and as far away as B.C. Apart from produce, shoppers could choose from a wide range of natural products, like soup mixes from Mixes ‘R Us, pita bread and hummus from The Happy Camel, beef jerky and kettle popcorn from Mr. Jerky and even wine from Birds & Bees Organic Winery and Meadery.
While vendors must meet the selection criteria of selling accessible and healthy food, their products do not need to be organic.
“Organic isn’t necessarily sustainable,” Sylvestre explained. “That doesn’t fit with what we want to raise awareness of, which is sustainable food. It means the support of local economy, coming from nearby, valuing the relationship with community members and (making) people understand where their food comes from.”
Sylvestre added that organic food is a misunderstood concept.
“For some people, organic food is the best because it doesn’t contain chemicals or preservatives,” she said.
“However, it might not be economically and socially sustainable (if) it comes from far away and is energy intensive in production.”
Sylvestre believed the higher prices of organic products would deter students from shopping in this market, and Sustain SU would not bring something that they cannot afford.
This sentiment was echoed by one of the market vendors, Arie Jol, of MaBe Farms. “Our meat products are all natural, which is close to organic but without the higher costs,” Jol said.
On the other hand, Ron Hamilton of Sunworks Farm only featured organic products. He believed students would eventually understand that the expensive prices are justified, due to his philosophy of practicing holistic agriculture and treating farm animals ethically.
“My goal is to produce the cleanest, healthiest and purest food in the market for my five grandchildren,” Hamilton said.
2012-13 Farmers’ Market schedule:
Sept 13, 2012
Sept 27, 2012
Oct 11, 2012
Oct 25, 2012
Nov 8, 2012
Nov 22, 2012
Dec 6, 2012
Jan 17, 2013
Jan 31, 2013
Feb 14, 2013
Feb 28, 2013
Mar 14, 2013
Mar 28, 2013
April 11, 2013
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