UT Farm Stand Brings Fresh Produce to Campus

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Every few weeks, a little white tent crops up amid the university’s buildings, sheltering rows of crates filled with fresh strawberries, spinach, oranges, and more. The pop-up market, which is sometimes situated on the West Mall and sometimes on the East, is known as the UT Farm Stand, and it’s the first of its kind on the Forty Acres.

12196168_527275360780728_7419308146826337246_nThe stand, which made its debut in February, is part of a collaboration between a student group and the Division of Housing and Food Services. The project aims to make locally grown produce accessible to the campus community. Unlike the numerous farmers markets across Austin, the green fee-funded UT Farm Stand is about 15 minutes away or less from any point on the Forty Acres, and often has produce marked at a cheaper price than in grocery stores. 

“We want everyone to have the opportunity to purchase healthy organic food,” says geography senior Mijal Grosman, also the stand’s materials coordinator. “Food is one of the things that all humans have in common and by reconnecting to it, we can connect to each other and the Earth.”

The idea for the stand began in December 2015. Originally, former DHFS sustainability director Hunter Mangrum pitched the idea and between him, Grosman, and a few others, the group began to take the first steps toward making the market a reality. With iPads in hand, they took to the campus’ streets and asked students and faculty a series of questions, starting with whether they were interested in having a fresh market nearby.

“We saw there was a need for it,” Grosman says. “We got important feedback, and that was really helpful to get it off the ground.”

Current DHFS sustainability director Neil Kaufman says the UT Farm Stand is like a traditional farmers market in that it’s not just about business transactions. “We like our farm stand to look and feel as much like as a farmers market as possible,” he says. “We want to provide a fun and relaxing educational experience.”

But from the back end, the stand works a bit differently. Instead of farmers selling their own produce directly, the students purchase from Austin vendors like Fruitful Hill, G&S Groves, New World Bakery, and on-campus gardens like Green Corps and the UT Microfarm, and re-sell it. The produce sold at each event not only depends on the season but on location. While Kaufman says they expect to have more fruits now that it’s 12744606_1003256276402844_2145181530043086328_nspring, customers won’t find items like bananas because they don’t grow locally (which DHFS defines as within a 150-mile radius of campus).

Aside from produce, the team tries to tie in other activities at each market, like yoga and face-painting. At the end of March, the group held its second farm stand, welcoming more than 50 students and faculty.

The group has three more events planned for April 13, 27, and May 5, each of which run from noon to 5:30 p.m. Although they hope to make the market a weekly fixture, for now they’re focused mainly on being more efficient, bringing in live music, and educating the community.

It’s just been really cool working on [the stand],” Grosman says. “It was a seed of an idea a long time ago, and we put a lot of work and love into it. I think a lot of people are finding it useful and want to see it happening more often.”

Photo credits from top: UT Farm Stand; UT Housing and Food; UT Housing and Food

 

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