Last March, Michelle Obama broke ground on a 1,100-square foot organic garden on the South Lawn as part of a movement to educate America’s children about the importance of healthy, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Though the First Family’s garden may now be buried under three feet of snow until the spring, Wesleyan students only have to wait until tomorrow, Feb. 17, to find delicious, locally grown food right here on campus. 

Every other Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., local vendors flock to Wesleyan to provide students with fresh goat cheeses, homemade pesto, spices, yarn, and an ever-changing assortment of other local treats. Vendors such as Beltane Farm and Meriano’s Bake Shop provide locally and naturally prepared foods while Bon Appetit offers lunch to students using points. 

“Good food should be accessible to everyone, at all times,” said Katherine Bascom ’10. “The Wesleyan farmers market is a portal through which people can explore choices of consumption.”

Co-market masters Bascom, Carina Kaufman ’12, and Melody Chang ’12 emphasized how the market can serve an educational purpose on campus and help change the way students think about their social responsibilities as consumers.  The farmers market, which became a regular event two years ago, is part of a larger push to encourage people to buy local and to foster change in American food culture.  

According to Bascom, supporting farmers markets provides opportunities to build relationships between community members and local farmers and helps to educate consumers about where their food comes from. She described how eating local can help to reduce the national dependence on large food corporations, strengthen community-based businesses, and protect the environment.

Bascom, who grew up on a 250-cow dairy farm in New Hampshire, witnessed the consequences of centralized farming when her family’s business was forced to close and their cows were sold.

“My dad loved the farm but it was not sustainable,” Bascom said.  “With federal subsidies favoring large, industrial operations, small local farmers struggle to compete.” 

According to Bascom, the Wesleyan Farmers Market is just one step towards a new way of thinking about food. While currently the market can only run twice a week, the market masters believe that the University should help bridge the gap and provide local options all the time. 
Other comparable universities have used their purchasing power to support similar initiatives.  Bates, who also employs Bon Appetit, has worked with Maine producers to provide the healthiest food options that are seasonally available, such as local organic bread and grass-fed beef raised by two Bates alums in North New Portland.

Bascom hopes that this farmers market is just the beginning of a continued campus commitment to local and healthy food. In the short term, however, students can look forward to the bi-monthly opportunities to enjoy locally grown and prepared foods on campus. 

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