Students who think Kerrytown is too far of a walk to buy fresh produce, will have to travel no further than the Michigan Union.
In the courtyard of the Michigan Union yesterday, the Michigan Student Assembly hosted its first MFarmers’ Market which offered local produce and plants for purchase, as well as live demonstrations and instructions for food preparation. MSA’s new initiative, which many other University divisions also contributed to, raise awareness about locally grown food.
LSA senior Monica Sangal, the MSA Health Issues Commission chair, said she came up with the idea for an on-campus farmer’s market because she wants fresh produce to be available for students.
“We really wanted to promote healthy eating on campus,” Sangal said. “Normally, the Farmers Market (in Kerrytown) is a little too far away for getting food.”
Sangal teamed up with Keith Soster, the food service director at the Michigan Union, to brainstorm the idea for the market. A variety of campus divisions collaborated on the project, including representatives from MHealthy, University Housing, the Student Sustainability Initiative, Planet Blue, University Catering, University Arts and Programs, University Health Services and the Graham Environmental Sustainability Institute.
Soster said he hopes the farmers market will educate the University community about what the broader Ann Arbor community has to offer.
“That is ultimately our goal — to educate the community as to what is available out there,” Soster said. “This is a great time of the year because harvest time is approaching, so we’ll have lots of great varieties.”
MSA also approached the University Unions with the project because the assembly had heard from students who were interested in having more local and fresh items available on campus, said Laura Seagram, marketing communications specialist for the University Unions.
The University already stocks locally grown products in University dining halls and retail locations such as Beanster’s Café, University Club Café and U-go’s. However, Seagram said she believes the farmers market will be an opportunity for students to get to know more about local produce.
“This is a handy way to have the farmers get a little bit more exposure and have direct contact with the students,” Seagram said.
At yesterday’s market, two chefs from Residential Dining Services and the Michigan Union led a cooking demonstration focused on healthy eating and preparing easy, affordable meals that students can make at home.
Tina Todosciuk — a farmer from Howell, Mich. had a table at the market and sold sweet corn, melon, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers. Todosciuk said she hopes the market encourages students to get more interested in locally grown food.
“The great thing about local food is that you know where it’s coming from, you know how it’s raised,” she said. “You know what chemicals are in it, or not in it, and it’s more nutritional.”
Sangal wrote in an e-mail interview that the MFarmers Market — scheduled next for Oct. 6 — offered a variety of produce including apples, squash, plums, tomatoes, sweet corn, eggplant, peppers, melons and watermelon.
Law School student Mary Fee said she appreciated the markets selection, especially considering it was the first run.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s small, but it seems to have as much variety as a farmer’s market usually does.”
LSA junior Stacy Kim said she decided to check out the market after receiving an invite to its debut on Facebook. Kim praised the market, calling it “cute” and “adorable.”
But the market could benefit from a change of location, Kim said.
“It was kind of hard to understand where (the Union patio) was,” she said. “Maybe if they could have it in a more recognizable location, it would be nice.”