Green Team proposes farmers market for campus

Poul Larsen

A Sac State student-led initiative is cultivating a farmers market just in time for harvest season.

The Associated Students, Inc. Green Team, a coalition focused on providing a student voice for sustainability on campus, presented their proposal for the market at the Sept. 16 Campus Sustainability Steering Committee.

“This is a very innovative idea, and this is what the committee wants. Pursue it and let’s see if we can make it happen,” said committee chair Mike Christensen.

Green Team Project Manager Mathew Pasqual said the market could focus on healthy living with a “farm to plate” philosophy. Pasqual is responsible for planning the event’s logistics, including permits, regulations and staffing.

“Students don’t understand the importance of local produce and agriculture,” Pasqual said.

A student survey conducted by the Green Team last semester showed a favorable reception to the farmers market concept, said Green Team chair Boris Kazinik.

Kazinik said he hopes the market will attract the surrounding community to campus. When asked for more details, Kazinik said he will comment when event plans are finalized.

Affordable produce from hand-selected farmers and food vendors, along with sustainable project education, would be offered at booths, Pasqual said.

Traditional early morning market hours may be prohibitive to students’ schedules, Pasqual said, so ASI is conducting another survey about two sets of hours: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., or 4 to 8 p.m.

“Afternoons are a great time for this event, since many students and staff are on their way home,” said Dining Services’ Sustainability Coordinator Jill Gellerman.

The event would be expected to operate year-round, every week, Pasqual said. Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays were considered at the committee meeting.

“The students have tentatively chosen Friday afternoons for the market. This will allow for more participation from the farmers, as many of them are busy attending other markets on the weekend,” Gellerman said.

Pasqual said parking lot 10 is high on the Green Team’s location list due to space availability, proximity of I-50 for easy transport and Sac State’s digital freeway sign.

Other potential locations include outside the Well, Hornet Bookstore or University Union buildings. Vendor access and guest parking are under review for all sites, Pasqual said.

University Transportation and Parking Services Director Nancy Fox said appropriate parking will be in place for the event.

First, the Green Team must secure a locale from the Space Management Department, Fox said.

Up to 10 vendors are projected after a vendor policy is developed with Dining Services, Pasqual said.

The policy will address costs such as Student Organizations and Leadership fees, which may approach $300 to $500 per vendor, each day.

Farmers will be screened for sustainability factors such as their facility size, location, farming practices, organic labeling and nutrition content, Pasqual said.

Dining Services works closely with the Sacramento County Environmental Health Department to make sure off-campus food items brought to campus for events are safe and come from licensed vendors, Gellerman said.

“Bringing a certified farmers market to campus requires more paperwork than the average catered event, so we are working with the ASI Green Team to make sure all bases are covered,” Gellerman said.

Shauna Schultz, nutritionist at the Well, also manages its cooking demonstration kitchen, The Cove. She said the market idea has been floating around her department for a couple of years, but resources, mainly time, were not available and the project lost steam.

“It’s awesome that it’s coming from the students, because they are going to make it happen. Students want this and they are interested in this,” Schultz said. “I would love to use food from the market for our demos.”

Schultz said she would also like to see The Cove provide education at the market, like nutrition information and recipes. The Cove teaches “eating green” concepts, like packing a lunch and eating out less often.

“Part of my health education is promoting fruits and vegetables. On a more personal level, I am an advocate for local and sustainable food,” Schultz said.

Bringing a farmers market to campus is aligned with Dining Services’ commitment to sustainability, Gellerman said.

UEI developed a new mission statement and values which now include sustainability. One visible example is the University Center Restaurant’s new menu, which includes local, organic and vegetarian menu items.

Gellerman said student and staff feedback about efforts to incorporate sustainable food has been positive.

“Utilizing items from the farmers market will be discussed when the event gets closer, so dishes can be planned around items sold at the market,” Gellerman said.

Schultz said a market is a great way to promote healthier consumption and, hopefully, easier access.

“We’re used to thinking about food for enjoyment, and now we’re thinking about how our choices impact the environment,” Schultz said.

ASI is not ready to issue a press release on the progress of the Farmers Market, said ASI Executive Vice President Blake Menezes in an email to The State Hornet.

ASI meets on Oct. 12 to vote on issues before its board, which may include the farmers market, Pasqual said.

Poul Larsen can be reached at [email protected]