Local vendors and students selling fresh produce will once again dot the Union Plaza this fall.
The U is hosting its fifth-annual Farmers Market, welcoming vendors from across the state and from its own backyard. The market runs every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Union Plaza, and draws both curious first-timers between classes and regulars who stop by the stands to pick up local produce.
Unlike others in the valley, the market caters specifically to an on-campus audience. Jen Colby, sustainability coordinator for the U, has been involved in the market’s development and is excited about its growing popularity.
“Being on campus poses unique challenges and opportunities,” she said. “But we are figuring it out.”
On campus, almost all buyers come on foot on the way to classes or meetings. Customers are rarely prepared to cart away loads of fruit and vegetables like they would at the Downtown Farmers Market, but the campus market still sees many students purchasing items, Colby said.
Finding art vendors with wide student appeal can also be tricky, but this year the balance seems right, Colby said.
The market is small, but vendors offer a variety of wares, ranging from homemade salsa to fresh-picked string beans to hand-woven dog collars.
“We try to mix it up and have a good representation here — and we’re always looking for artists who appeal to students,” Colby said.
The market was launched four years ago in close cooperation with the Campus Gardens and the goal of offering students closer contact with real food and a new gathering place.
Georgie Corkery, a sophomore in environmental studies, seems to have found both. She has been volunteering at the garden almost every Friday since she discovered it early last fall.
“It’s fun, and you get dirty,” she said. “You meet cool people. I just have a blast.”
Bradley Detterrera, a senior in medical anthropology, agreed.
“There is nothing like harvesting garlic. Pulling it out of the ground, the smell. You connect with your food. The experience is augmented,” he said. “But the best part is the network — the people you get to know.”
The gardens are located at the Sill Center and near the Pioneer Memorial Theatre, and produce a four-season harvest. Right now, they are turning out late-summer vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, zucchini and squash. In the coming weeks, they have okra, eggplant, radishes, pumpkins and peppers. The harvest is distributed among volunteers and sold at the market.
All of the vendors have been evaluated and approved by a committee looking for organically grown, earth-friendly products.
Shawn Stuart, one of the new vendors this year, owns Ice Cream ConeUcopia.
Three years ago, he sold ice cream from a cart. Now he has a store across from the Grand America hotel.
“I make it the old rock salt, barrel and ice way. I use the best ingredients I can get my hands on,” Stuart said. “As a result, it’s just mind-blowingly tasty.”
Stuart also makes the waffle cones for his ice cream himself.
Morgan Cesa and Brendan Kelly, both graduate students in mathematics, discovered ConeUcopia downtown, and stopped by for the third time in one week.
“Brendan has a Ph.D. in ice cream,” Cesa joked.
“I’ll be here every Thursday,” Kelly said.
Other local food vendors such as Volker’s Bakery, Clarke’s Kettle Corn, Tamales Tita and Tagge’s Fruit will be at the market, which will run every Thursday until Fall Break.