Farmers Market Freshens Guilford’s Vegetables
October 26, 2007
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After eating overcooked, over-salted vegetables for eight weeks, many students found themselves longing for some fresh vegetables to make a public appearance on campus. It was this sentiment that prompted seniors Clare Hyre and Alison Tynes to organize Guilford’s first ever farmer’s market, which took place on Oct. 4 outside of Founders Hall.An array of fresh, ripe fruits and vegetables ranging from tomatoes, peppers, apples, butternut squash, to shiitake mushrooms lined the tables, attracting a thin but steady stream of students throughout the day. Flavored fromage, granola, and local honey were also available at one stand. Prices were very affordable for a college budget; most of the produce cost between two and three dollars per pound.
The market featured three local farmers from Bettini Farms in Browns Summit, NC (off of Lees Chapel Road), Mindenhill Farms in Pleasant Garden, NC, and Flora Ridge Farm in Mt. Airy, NC. There was also a representative from Deeps Roots Market, Greensboro’s only organic co-op grocery store, which sells products produced by dozens of small local farms.
“I haven’t really been out into Greensboro for produce. I mostly just eat (the fruit and vegetables) at the caf,” said first-year Elizabeth Schroeder. “But this is a lot healthier … it’s really cool to see this on campus.”
Commercial agricultural processes often involve using chemicals and wax coating to give them a longer shelf life. Farmer’s markets allow vegetables to be picked at their prime just a few days before they are sold. They are far less likely to use preservatives and pesticides, which studies have shown can actually reduce the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
Because there are no pesticides or chemical fertilizers used in organic farming, the toll on the environment is lessened. Buying local produce can also help to prevent greenhouse gas emissions. The vegetables traveled only a few miles rather than thousands, and less energy was used to bring the food from the earth to the plate.
“Our environment is in critical condition, and making choices that are easy to make, like the food you eat, can really make a big difference,” Tynes said.
With health and environmental concerns to motivate them, Hyre and Tynes worked for three weeks to organize the farmers market.
“I visited the farmer’s market (in Greensboro) and I also got a directory of a lot of farmers and e-mailed them to ask when they could come,” Tynes said.
Three out of the 15 farmers that Tynes and Hyre contacted participated in the market. Those that did come, however, found it was well worth the short commute. Bettini Farms sold out of honey within the first hour.
Tynes and Hyre were pleased with the outcome of the market. They hope to bring the farmer’s market back to Guilford in late spring, using experience to build on the first market’s success.
“We’re going to get a little more organized for the spring,” Hyre said, “this was kind of like a pilot farmers market.”
If you missed the first market but enjoy fresh vegetables, you don’t have to wait until spring to get your hands on some for a price that won’t break the bank. Guilford has an organic veggie co-op, located in Greenleaf, that provides boxes of vegetables to students for 10 dollars a week.
The veggie co-op buys vegetables from Eastern Carolina Organics, or ECO. ECO buys certified organic vegetables from small North Carolina Farms, many of which are family run.
“There’s only one middle man, so it’s a lot cheaper for us, and the farmers are getting a lot more of the money,” said sophomore Bryce Bjornson, who runs the administrative aspect of the Co-Op. “Sodexho probably buys their vegetables from someone and that someone buys their vegetables from farmers and the farmers probably don’t see a lot of that money. We only have this one company in between who does not charge a very high premium at all. We get a good deal.”
The types of vegetables in the boxes varies each week, and requests are welcomed. “There are a lot of vegetable you don’t see in the caf,” said Bjornson. “We have kale, we’ve got figs, green beans, okra … I think buying these raw vegetables and having to cook them is a skill within itself.