On a breezy Thursday afternoon, I breathed in the brisk spring air as I took my routine walk across the Ag Quad to Trillium for lunch. With a hurried pace and pumping heart, I mentally prepared to re-enact the Hunger Games in order to secure a spot in the line for the burrito station and a highly coveted seat. Before I could reach Trillium, however, something peculiar stopped me in my tracks. Tucked in a corner of the Ag Quad were clusters of people bouncing between a row of small tents. I immediately recounted the dreamy, warm days of early September, spent having leisurely lunches with friends while sprawled across red checkered picnic blankets on the grassy quad. The Cornell Farmers Market was back for spring, and I could not have been happier.
The Cornell Farmers Market is a beloved campus tradition that is entirely student-run. Every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., local Ithaca vendors, as well as student vendors, set up shop along a path on the Ag Quad to create a farmers’ market. Although it might not be as large as the Ithaca Farmers Market, the campus market brings a slice of the unhurried, quintessential Ithaca life to the bustling Cornell bubble. The market runs at the beginning and end of the school year, closing for winter. With the market’s reopening on April 12, students can finally branch outside of their typical lunch spots to enjoy time outside, support local vendors and enjoy delectable food.
The market had a great sprawl of vendors this week, ranging from student-run startups to long-esteemed local businesses:
Grabonzos: Grabonzos are a healthy snack food created by Cornell-based startup, Antithesis. These bite-sized snacks are made of chickpeas, but taste as delicious as any chocolatey treat. Several student representatives enthusiastically informed market-goers about their novel product through free samples and sold colorful packages of the product at the market.
Blue Tusk Doughnuts: Calling all vegans! Blue Tusk is famous for their fresh, handcrafted vegan doughnuts. To complement their mouthwatering sweets, they also partner with Copper Horse Coffee to offer sustainably sourced coffee varieties from around the world, roasted here in the heart of the Finger Lakes. Without a doubt, the most unique item sold by Blue Tusk was the compostable straws made of long ziti pasta.
On The Street Pita: This local Ithaca business frequents area farmers markets and festivals with their “Ithaca-style pitas,” gyros and salads. Since there are no central campus dining establishments that offer gyros, students can finally get their gyro fill every Thursday at the market! On The Street is a favorite amongst students, as evidenced by the long line trailing from their booth.
The Hudson Cake Studio: Located on the outskirts of Ithaca, The Hudson Cake Studio just might have some of the most beautiful desserts that I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Their stunning pastries are like artwork and provide students with a taste of luxury and elegance even in the midst of a busy school day. Their cupcakes looked especially delicious, including flavors such as Mocha and Carrot with Cream Cheese.
Dennis’ Homemade Ice Cream: If you want to escape to a blissful, hot summer day on the beach, check out this vendor. Since the 1980s, Dennis Caso has delivered excellence to the Ithaca community with his famous homemade ice cream. At Thursday’s market, he served hand-squeezed lemonade ($3.50) and homemade ice cream sandwiches ($3.50). Dennis offered both coconut and vanilla flavored ice cream, sandwiched between two brownies. I chose vanilla and have to say, eating this was like a spiritual experience. The brownie sandwich offered the perfect balance of crunch and chewiness to complement the cold, creamy vanilla ice cream.
Tibetan Momo Bar: Another crowd favorite, the Tibetan Momo Bar, offers Tibetan and Japanese food including dumplings, fried rice, fried noodles, teriyaki combinations, wraps and rolls. I simply cannot leave the market without getting some chicken momos (dumplings), which are a delicacy, to say the least. The thick, soft dough cradles a pocket of savory chicken, creating a beautiful harmony of rich flavor and smooth texture. Just thinking about these momos makes my mouth water.
Cornell Bread Club: You would be very mistaken to dismiss this vendor as being “just a student club.” Cornell Bread Club is an official student organization for anyone who loves to eat, bake or learn about bread. Bread Club brought an impressive variety of breads to the campus market, and even provided students with bread samples and information about how to join Bread Club. Their specialty bread of the week was Cinnamon Babka, but they also offered Rosemary Garlic, Broccoli Cheddar, Jalapeno Cheddar, Apple Cinnamon Bread and Vegan Banana Bread. Stop by for a slice ($1), half-loaf ($3) or full-loaf ($5).
Magic Garden: The most aesthetically pleasing, peace-giving booth at the market was likely Magic Garden, a nursery located north of Ithaca in Interlaken, N.Y. Their booth overflowed with luscious greenery including herb plants, hanging baskets and adorably potted flowers and succulents.
Dilmun Hill Organic Farm + Mellow Yellow Greenhouse: Last but certainly not least, Dilmun Hill is a student-run organic farm whose mission is to provide students with opportunities for experiential learning, collaboration and research in sustainable agriculture. Dilmun Hill harvests greens from Mellow Yellow Greenhouse, an organic greenhouse on campus with a similar mission. The student-run farm and greenhouse offered vibrant, colorful produce including varieties such as Fioretto cauliflower, Gilfeather turnips and fluffy spring mix. I snagged one of the last bags of the spring mix lettuce ($5), which was harvested just hours before the start of the market.
The aforementioned vendors are merely those who sold at last week’s market. Past markets have seen vendors including Nucharee Thai Food, Knapp Farm, WhaleCat Donuts, HoneyRock Farm, Nook & Cranny Farm, Sadya Snacks and others. There truly is something for everyone to enjoy at the campus market.
Aside from the absolutely delicious food and beautiful plants, I loved the unparalleled experience of interacting with market vendors. It is so easy to ignore where our food comes from on a daily basis. Thus, I truly appreciate the opportunity to support the people from our very own Ithaca community who put their hearts into making fresh, high-quality foods and goods.
Next time you’re pondering what to eat for lunch on a Thursday, consider the Cornell Farmers Market on the Ag Quad. This is an amazing way to support local farmers and business owners and thus help build community, eat more nutritiously, foster environmental sustainability and “bridge the gap between farm and fork.”