Home Environment Farmers Market Represents Substitute for Major Chains, Trying to Attract More Students

Farmers Market Represents Substitute for Major Chains, Trying to Attract More Students

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Sarah Conley sells tortilla chips produced by Shagbark Seed and Mill, both a seed cleaning facility that cleans and bags beans and a mill that stone grinds corn flour to be made into tortilla chips. Photo by Sarah Volpenhein

A babbling crowd circulated among local vendors this past Saturday inside the market on East State, where the Athens Farmers Market is held. Samples of cheeses and bologna as well as colorful vegetables and bursting bags of apples attracted buyers like bees on honey, to the different stalls.

Every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., local growers and processors gather at 1000 E. State Street to sell locally produced products to the community. Some students prefer to sleep in on a Saturday, while others take advantage of what the Farmers Market has to offer.

“You just get a variety of different products based on the season,” said Jordan Brogley Webb, a junior studying journalism who goes to the market a few times each season.

Not only does the market cater to farmers, but also to bakers and horticulturists. Although the colorful flower bouquets were nowhere in sight at this time of year, some stands offered baked bread, bologna, jars of jams and honey, beeswax candles or herbal teas. The Farmers Market also boasts some organic foods, like several of the products from Shagbark Seed and Mill, a local producer of tortilla chips and beans.

“A lot of organic farms, both with either meat or vegetables, I like to support partly because of the people that run them but also [because of] the general practices and … the less synthetic way of growing vegetables and plants and also raising livestock and animals,” said Timothy Fultz, an employee of Shagbark Seed and Mill.

However, several students underscored the importance of knowing where their food comes from.

“It’s also personal. You get to interact with the vendors … and you get to put a face to the product you’re getting,” said Brogley Webb.

Whereas much of the food found at Wal-Mart and Kroger is shipped from faceless producers in far-flung states like California, everything sold at the Farmers Market is locally produced.

Junior Jordan Brogley Webb said, "I just like seeing all the different vegetables. I mean you'd be amazed with the kind of variety that they have." Photo by Sarah Volpenhein

“I try to shop at the Farmer’s Market because everything that we buy is connected to something, and there are really concrete consequences to what you buy … We really need a local food economy,” said senior plant biology major Eden Kinkaid.

Andrea Vanarsdalen, a junior Communication Studies major, also favors the market over chains like Wal-Mart and Kroger.

“I love vegetables so I’d rather get it from a local farmer in Athens and support them,” she said. “I also feel like there’s less preservatives in the food and they’re just better for you.”

Still, students who frequent the market are few compared to members of the local population. According to the sales director of Shagbark Seed and Mill, Sarah Conley, students make up less than 20 percent of market-goers.

Some, like Brogley Webb and Vanarsdalen, attribute this discrepancy to the timing of the market and its distance from campus.

“I think students just want to go to Wal-Mart in one stop and get everything they need. They don’t want to wake up on a Saturday morning,” said Vanarsdalen.

“It’s a Saturday morning,” Kinkaid agreed. “And half the student population can’t make their own food from living in the dorms.”

Kacee Babinger, a junior business major, chalked it up to lack of awareness.

“I think some students don’t even really know about it,” she said. “I didn’t find out until last spring about it.”

Kinkaid suggested that the university bridge the disconnect between the students and the community through the curriculum. Additionally, the dorm resident assistants could organize trips to the Farmers Market, said Babinger.

Several students also recalled the mini Farmers Markets held at the Howard Hall site at the top of Jeff Hill on Fridays last semester.

“I think they should do that more often,” said McDermott. “It would be really successful.”

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