Photo Courtesy of Sam Gomez

April 12, 2017

Farmer’s Market at Cornell: New Year, New Goals

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The Farmer’s Market at Cornell embodies all that Cornell and Ithaca have to offer. From wholesome lunches provided by Groks Rx Kitchen to fresh produce from Dilmun Hill Student Farm, the market offers a variety of foods and produce as well as handmade items. It is a space for students and staff to interact with local farmers, experience a more accessible version of Ithaca’s Farmer’s Market and check out the works of other students.

When I visited the market last spring, one of the most unforgettable products available was Cache Food’s granola bites made of ground-up avocado seeds. I am a known avocado fanatic, but I have never thought about the possibility of consuming avocado seeds not only to reduce food waste but also to obtain their antioxidants and polyphenols. I soon found myself striking up a conversation with the founders of Cache Food, three Cornell alumni who decided to launch their zero-waste initiative at the market. It was truly inspiring to personally observe them spring their passions into action while also raising awareness of something rather trivial like an avocado seed. Although I did not see them at the market last fall, there were many other food entrepreneurs like Cache Food, both from Cornell and from Ithaca. The market’s creativity, liveliness and engaging atmosphere keeps me going back every week and makes me excited for its return this week!

Photo Courtesy of Sam Gomez

The recent construction of the Agriculture Quad has made it difficult to open the space for the market. However, the Farmer’s Market will be back at Cornell starting this Thursday, April 13th, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at its new location on the Arts Quad.

There are many things to look forward to for the Spring market besides its new location. To learn more about the Farmer’s Market at Cornell and what will be offered this semester, I met up with Market Co-Manager Hanna Reichel ’17 and Social Media Chair Zoe Friedberg ’19.

Q: What is the history and mission of the Farmer’s Market at Cornell?

Hanna: The market is very young. It’s only in its sixth year. When I first came on board, there were a handful of regular vendors like Honeyrock Farms and the Cornell Bread Club. But we really made an effort in the past two years to really integrate a diverse range of vendors, including both student groups and community vendors. We also worked to provide a full range of services from fresh produce to prepared foods.

Zoe: The market provides the space and opportunity for students and staff to connect with others and the foods they consume. There is currently a great disconnect among students and the farmers because students tend to eat at dining halls or grab prepared food. The market can help reconnect students with their food as well as their community.

Hanna: The market is so much more than just providing a service to people who are hungry, but [also serves] to create a vibrant community. Our goal is to make this into a tradition and to hopefully get students to also check out nearby markets outside of campus and become a part of the local food scene.

Q: What do you love the most about the Farmer’s Market at Cornell?

Hanna: I love to see how the Farmer’s Market activates the space. When I saw the market in action for the first time, I loved its effect on the campus. It made people smile, slow down, look and interact. The best part has been seeing chefs on campus come out and talk with the vendors.

I would like to make a critical note that the Farmer’s Market is not competing with the dining halls in any way. In fact, I tend to see chefs stopping by and talking with vendors at the market. There is a beautiful cross-pollination between all members on campus and the people living nearby, and the market has become a part of this community fabric.

Q: Who are the vendors and have they found a lot of success at our markets?

Hanna: We focus on providing a diverse range of vendors, but we also have to be practical about consumers’ needs. We have had to turn down many vendors in order to tailor to what students would want and to limit competition. The produce we sell has to be grown within 30 miles, which reflects the density of our agricultural supply and opportunity.

Zoe: We are also asking vendors selling prepared foods to use local produce, especially the produce sold by some of the other food vendors at our market. OmNomOmlettes, for example, will be collaborating with Silver Fox, which is a new tomato vendor we have. This can help both vendors to collaborate and increase sales. We are trying to really form a whole community among the vendors.

Hanna: I have  seen many vendors who get new ideas or get inspired by our market. One of the best examples is Crooked Carrot, a local enterprise that does a lot of things with carrots and root vegetables. They make kimchi, sauces, spreads and jams and have a huge social enterprise platform like teaching schools how to eat healthy vegetables.

Crooked Carrot was at our market and doing okay, but they were not making skyrocketing sales. The owner of Crooked Carrot decided to try out a “donut” concept at our market instead. They were so successful at our market that they are now selling through The Piggery, Manndibles, Press Cafe and catering for large-scale events in Tompkins County. This was made possible by the success with our smaller sample size [of customers].

Are the prices relatively fair? Are the products more expensive or cheaper than local prices?

Zoe: The prices reflect the local prices for produce, and we are doing our best to make it as accessible as possible.

Hanna: We are working to ensure a range of products to a range of faculty and students. We are aware that there is a huge disparity of socioeconomic status on this campus. We have been having a lot of conversations on the future and the direction of our farmer’s market, and we are pushing for SNAP and EBT machines at our markets.

Q: What can students and faculty look forward to this semester?

Zoe: The new location on the Arts Quad! This will bring in a whole new demographic of students and make the market more accessible to more students and staff. The Arts Quad also has a lot more space [than the Ag Quad]. Students will be able to roam around to interact with the vendors, volunteers and other students on campus. Students can also lay out picnic blankets, which they can either bring or also rent from us.

Hanna: There will also be six to seven new vendors this semester. The market reflects the seasonality of the products. Because it’s not harvest season, we are emphasizing more produced foods for the spring market. The new vendors include OmNomOmlettes, Bickering Twins, IronWood Farm and Silver Fox Farm.

Q: How did you get involved with the Farmer’s Market at Cornell? How can students join?

Hanna: I joined my junior year as a vendor coordinator. There are usually 10 to 12 volunteers per market, and we are always open to anyone who wants to help out.

Zoe: I first joined by volunteering. As a volunteer, I sat at the main table and answered any questions about the market [and] how to get involved, handing out buttons and stickers  [and getting] any supplies or connections that the vendors needed. I was able to interact with the vendors and get to know their stories.

Q: What is it like to work with the Farmer’s Market at Cornell team?

Zoe: It is a very collaborative team, just like the market’s mission [of] collaboration. Everyone has a passion for an element of the market, and there is a communal excitement for the growth of the market. A lot goes into holding each market, and every person on the e-board, from the vendor coordinators to volunteer coordinators to publicity, is central to make the market happen.

Hanna: I definitely second this. The team is not structured like so many e-boards. There is not much of a rigid “hierarchy.” It is unlike any of the organizations I have worked with. Each person we bring onto the team is committed and passionate. We will have positions opening up after this semester, so if you’re interested in joining, please consider volunteering.

Q: What do you recommend that students check out at the market?

Zoe: Just take a walk through the market and talk to the vendors. Even if you’re not going to buy anything, you can always come and experience the market. Taste things, smell things, just enjoy everything that the market has to offer.

Hanna: Talk to the vendors! Vendors love talking to the community — they love talking to students, faculty and staff, and it is what brings them back every time. Every single one of those interactions helps to shatter this “town and gown” separation we have. Every smile and every question about how they are doing, where their farm or operation is located, where they got their inspiration,  help strengthen our community.

Zoe: Come check out the Farmer’s Market from 11 a.m. — 2 p.m. on Thursdays at the Arts Quad! And make sure to like our Facebook page to learn more about our collaborations with other clubs, special events and updates!