URI’s Free Farmers Market Wins National Sustainability Award – URI News
KINGSTON, RI – September 1, 2022 – A team effort from staff across the University of Rhode Island campus led to recent recognition by the National Association of College & University Food Services. URI recently learned that it won the Grand Prize for Sustainability, for Awareness and Education, this year, recognizing its Free Farmers Market, which started last year.
It’s a long way from farm to table. The work began long before last year when plant science professor Dr. Rebecca Brown and her team of students began growing crops at URI’s educational garden. Cultivation takes place at URI’s agronomic farm on the west end of campus, where students grow vegetables on 30 acres of farmland, from planting to harvest, researching and growing a variety of crops and growing. donating tons of products every year. Master gardeners and other community volunteers help with the harvest and also pick fruit at East Farm.
The idea for a free market was born out of a conversation between a handful of staff, including Kelli Kidd, Nutrition Specialist at Health Services and the Athletic Department, and Sharon Pavignano, Associate Director of Community Relations. businesses and foundations, and master gardener. Kidd and Pavignano then posed the question: how could the excess food from the University‘s research farms be linked to the larger URI community? The farms had previously shared food with Graduate Village, the Jonnycake Center and the Rhody Outpost food pantry. But there were still so many products in the annual fall harvest.
What better way to share the wealth than to set up a table, or two, on the Quadrangle?
Organizing a weekly farmer’s market in the middle of campus was no small feat. Kidd and Dr. Amanda Missimer worked with the teaching garden at URI’s Gardner Crop Research Center, where Rebecca Brown supervised student employees who harvested produce; students from Dr. Brown’s Vegetable Production Course and Dr. Missimer’s and Dr. Sarah Amin’s Nutrition Courses helped harvest additional crops and distribute the produce. The greenhouse/farm manager, Tim Sherman, transported produce to the Quad each week.
On site, chef manager Aaron Fitzsenry offered delicious cooking demonstrations to entice passers-by. Crunchy apples harvested from East Farm orchards made a portable snack for students on their way to class. Other departments have joined us, from the Counseling Center and Campus Recreation to Health Education and Cooperative Extension. And a grant from Amica, guaranteed by Pavignano and the URI Foundation, made it possible to complete the offers with the necessary funds for seeds and fertilizers, etc.
Fitzsenry said he knew they had created something special when he started recognizing market participants from week to week. The “all comers” vibe means students can freely approach and receive the bounty; everything is free.
When student customers visit the market every week, they not only learn about food production, but also new parts of the University.
Kidd said there were psychological benefits to the effort, as well as physical ones – the outdoor market provides positive and safe interaction and volunteers appreciate the chance to connect with an essential part of the school‘s mission. The program also stands out as one of the few doing something like this, certainly in Rhode Island and probably New England, she said.
The products offered are fresh as desired, picked on Wednesdays and distributed on Thursdays.
This year’s market will see returning favorites and new selections. Visitors can expect watermelon, squash and parsnips, as well as eggs from Peckham Farm. Brown said they’ll start the semester with basil, tomatoes, eggplant, lunchbox peppers and other summer favorites. “As the weather cools, we will have an abundance of kale, lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots, potatoes and other fall vegetables. Hopefully something for everyone!” They also hope to receive a visit from the hens of Mary Parlange.
Fitzsenry enjoys working at a land-grant university where the study of food cropping is part of the curriculum, if not one of the URl’s missions. “Meeting and working with people who are very knowledgeable about food systems in an environment that encourages learning and improvement has been personally rewarding,” he commented.
“The Free Farmers Market is a great example of how something can become more than the sum of its parts,” he said.
URI’s productive farmers also contributed to an impressive bottom line that the University’s math and business majors would approve of. Last year the farm produced over 5,100 pounds of produce which, if purchased in bulk, would have cost the University approximately $9,884.00. Instead, it was shared for free with over 1,400 people in the URI community.
This year’s free Farmer’s Market begins Thursday, September 8 and will be held weekly until the last Thursday in October (11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.). Bring a reusable shopping bag or pick one up on-site from FFM sponsors: Health Services, Nutrition and Food Sciences, Food Services, Campus Recreation, and URI Counseling Center.
“This group effort was especially great to see,” said Pierre St-Germain, Director of URI Food Services, “not just because we were feeding people, but because of the outreach and education involved. This kind of strong cooperation between departments is really what a collaborative university is. »
The marketplace is open to anyone in the URI community, student or employee, on or off campus. All are welcome and encouraged to visit.
To volunteer at the harvest or market, click the Free Farmers Market link at Nutrition and Food Sciences.
Follow us on @urifreefarmersmarket.