JOHNSON CITY – The Farmers Market at East Tennessee State University returns to campus next week, giving consumers fresh food choices again and making ETSU a rarity among peer institutions.
Approximately 10 vendors will bring their goods to the university Thursday, Sept. 6, and consumers can expect more fresh produce during the fall semester. The Farmers Market at ETSU will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the parking lot between the D.P. Culp University Center and Roy S. Nicks Hall every Thursday through October.
Since the market got its start last year, students who began the project determined that ETSU is one of only three non-land-grant universities nationwide with a farmers market. There are 582 such schools, so less than one percent have a farmers market. Land-grant universities are institutions with historically strong agricultural ties; they were typically founded by the states to offer practical education focused on agriculture, science and engineering.
“It’s gratifying to know that our university is pioneering something that is so positive for the campus and the community,” said Rachel Ward, manager of the ETSU market. “The feedback we received last year – from vendors, from students, faculty and staff – was very encouraging, so we’re excited about this new season. All of our vendors are coming back and we’ve added two new vendors.”
Ward, a community and behavioral health doctoral student in the ETSU College of Public Health, founded the market last year with fellow graduate students. All vendors and farmers who participate must grow or produce their own products, and they must be within 100 miles of the university.
“Because the market got started in the spring semester, our vendors weren’t able to offer as much produce as people might expect because it wasn’t harvest season,” Ward said. “Part of the educational component of the farmers market is teaching seasonality and using what is available to you locally. Next week we’ll have more fresh produce, so we’re excited about that.”
In addition to offering food and fresh produce, the market will again include entertainment and fitness to increase the festive atmosphere. Students and faculty members from ETSU Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music Studies will provide music each week. Free yoga classes will be held by Manifest Collective and Shakti in the Mountains.
Ward said the student leadership group has grown by six people since the spring, and she is encouraging others to get involved.
“We’re really trying to recruit more students who are passionate about this to join our team,” Ward said. “We’re particularly interested in having more undergraduate students. There are opportunities for people to take over leadership roles and learn how to manage the market. This experience provides a great education in how to manage an organization, as well as how to bridge academics and community involvement because you’re working closely with the university and with local farmers.”