And then there were two: UCSD opens weekly farmers market on campus

By Erin Spry

Cafeteria food, ramen noodles and frozen dinners are the traditional staples that feed college students. Especially for students living on campus, their options don’t often extend beyond pre-packaged food and unhealthy snacks.

But, all that has changed

UCSD has begun a weekly farmers market on campus beginning Sept. 21. Students, faculty and residents are able to buy a variety of items ranging from fresh produce and breads to crepes and flowers. It will operate every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The market is being put on through a joint venture of the Sunshine Store, the on-campus convenience store and department of the UCSD bookstore, and Student Organizations and Leadership Opportunities, or SOLO.

Bonnie Harmon manages the Sunshine Store and the new market. She said that while other campuses provide markets, the inspiration for theirs came from the students themselves.

“Every year, the students get a survey about what they would like to see on campus,” said Harmon. “Several people came up with the idea of having a farmers market. So, we thought about it and started working on it.”

Harmon said it’s difficult for students on campus to get fresh food or produce. The nearest grocery store is a half-mile away and many students don’t have transportation.

“We wanted them to be able to get fresh produce, vegetables and bread and give it to them for a good value,” said Harmon.

She is hoping a farmers market will also instill a larger sense of community on campus.

Yolanda Leyva, director of SOLO, said this goal is something that will benefit everyone on campus.

“This is going to be an initiative for the future to build a downtown feeling to the campus,” said Leyva. “It will be a great service to students.”

They are expecting at least 20 to 25 vendors, all of which come directly from the La Jolla Open Aire Market.

Sherry Ahern, a member of the non-profit organization Friends of La Jolla, started the La Jolla Open Aire Market six years ago. She considers markets to be a vital part of any community.

“I think that they’re wholesome and fresh and they bring the community together with what they’re working on,” she said. “I’m sure it will bring the student community together.”

Ahern said a market isn’t just a convenient place to get fruits and vegetables, but an experience. “I think it’s about eating fresh and supporting your local farmers.”

Harmon also thinks it will be a fun event for students and faculty.

“It will be a kind of spirited atmosphere where people can just pick and choose what they want, and wander from booth to booth,” she said.

Ahern said markets are also valuable because the food is fresher and more appetizing.

“When you’re eating a tomato or a piece of fruit that was picked the night before,” she said, “or a fresh egg that was just laid by a hen, the difference in taste is just shocking.”

Harmon pointed out that fresh foods are more nourishing as well.

“A lot of the produce you see at a farmers market is straight from the fields, so they’re fresher, they’re riper, and they’re healthier for you,” said Harmon. “There’s a whole group of students that just eat junk food, and there’s a whole group that’s very health conscious.”

Harmon said the UCSD Farmers Market is modeled after others, such as the La Jolla Open Aire Market. Theirs is similar on a much smaller scale, focusing on fresh foods but leaving out the artisan booths that populate the La Jolla market.

Similar as they may be, Harmon does not consider the UCSD market competition for the La Jolla Open Aire Market.

“We’re open on different days and different times,” she said. “The farmers want to sell the produce and this is a very viable way to do that. They get it straight from the fields to the table.”

Ahern also said she doesn’t consider the UCSD market to be a threat.

“When they’re too close together, sometimes it doesn’t work,” she said. “But since it’s for the students, I think it’s perfect.”

According to Harmon, any proceeds that come from the market will go straight back to the school.

“We’re not doing it for profit. We’re absolutely doing it for the students,” said Harmon. “It’s our form of excellent customer service, which is what we strive for.”

Harmon is anxious to see the market open and grow.

“I’m really excited about it,” said Harmon. “It’s been a long time getting it all together and a lot of hard work, but I think the students are going to respond to it positively. Giving the students what they need on campus and making those things available - that’s why we’re here.”