When Gale Welter, the manager of the UA Farmers' Market, met with Jane McCollum, all Welter was looking for was a little advice, not necessarily a new home for the market. While McCollum--the general manager of the Marshall Foundation, a nonprofit that owns most of the properties along University Boulevard between Park and Euclid avenues--was happy to offer advice, she was also looking for ways to broaden the appeal of the UA's shopping district. It was a perfect match: After two years on campus, the market officially moved to its new home at Geronimo Plaza on Friday, Sept. 19. Welter says the market still has students in mind, but she hopes the outlying community becomes part of the market, too. The market runs every Friday during the school year, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Tell me about the UA Farmers' Market and your involvement.
As coordinator of nutrition services for the UA Campus Health Service, the market came out of my interest in how I do my outreach with healthy choices on campus. Farmers' markets encourage whole, locally grown foods as more nutritious choices. If we have a farmers' market that can encourage staff, faculty and students to try a different eating style and encourage students to buy and eat local, there is a chance that they will understand the health and economic connections and seek locally grown foods now and in the future, furthering the demand for them.
You also involve nutrition students from the UA?
I think of our market as a weekly health-and-wellness event. Sustainability, healthy choices and local food tie into the farmer's-market philosophy, so we partnered with the Department of Nutritional Sciences to help provide education. There is a class each semester responsible for tabling at the farmers' market as part of their curriculum. As a nutrition professional, you have to learn to communicate with the public, and you do get asked to participate in health-and-wellness events like this quite often.
When did the market start?
In the fall of 2006. It took me about six months to get the approvals to do this with risk management, Dining Services, Parking and Transportation, and business affairs. And we had to get permission to do this right in front of the Student Union on the mall. We had our market there for two years. We knew last semester that we could do better, but we didn't know how. At that point, we put in an application with Students Consulting for Non-Profit Organizations, a student organization in the Eller School of Business. These students take on special projects to work on as consultants ... They came up with a few new and provocative thoughts.
They suggested you try to market to the whole community?
Yes. It did make us think differently. ... By the summer, Suzanne Dhruv, our vendor coordinator from Prescott College, and I started talking about a new location. We looked at Web sites of other campus farmers' markets and noticed they were on the outskirts of campus. We knew that Jane McCollum had managed another market in town for several years. I thought she might have some wisdom to share, and thought that Main Gate Square might be a great location for the market. We set up a meeting with Jane to discuss this, and she was thrilled with the idea.
Why do you think communities should care about farmers' markets?
Well, I think for the benefit of supporting local food producers who then provide to us more nutritious food, less processed foods and more whole foods. The closer you eat food from where and when it was picked, the more nutritious it's going to be. You are supporting the local economy in this way, and you're supporting your own health. There are also larger concepts of sustainability: Less fuel is used, healthier soils ... .
What surprised you most being involved in the market?
How much work it takes. It is like a baby. When you are expecting, you can't understand how one baby can take up so much time. ... You would think it is just having the vendors show up and ... leave, but it is so much more than that. ... We just believe that bringing these messages about locally produced food, health, wellness and sustainability is a good thing to do. And seeing students, vendors and customers light up each week when they interact--there's something about it. ... It's like a big party every week.