There will soon be a farmers market at East Tennessee State University.
The market will open April 5, a Thursday, and every subsequent Thursday from 9:30 a.m. until 1 p.m. through the end of the semester. The market will be in the middle of campus and open theoretically to everyone, however, passes are required to park at ETSU, so the market is being geared toward the campus community.
Rachel Ward, a doctoral student in the College of Public Health at ETSU, spearheaded the school’s farmers market. She began discussions with friends this past fall about ways to get more healthy foods on campus.
“And this kind of inspired my farmers market idea,” Ward said.
Since September she has worked with administrators across campus, different community groups, such as the Johnson City Farmers Market, and her friends and other students to establish an official student organization that will facilitate the market.
Final approval for the market was given in December. In February the details were completed.
“So, we are about two weeks away from our start date,” Ward said. “We have our vendors lined up and all sorts of activities and educational groups and musicians coming to help support the market.”
There are 10 vendors lined up right now who sell everything from dairy products to baked goods to dried chilies. Auntie Ruth’s doughnuts, those large doughnuts people line up for at the Johnson City Farmers Market, also will be available.
There will not be too much produce right now, because it is not in season.
“So that means that we’re really teaching the campus about seasonality and how, you know, it’s early spring so they may not be able to get tomatoes or different ripe summer vegetables,” Ward said. “But we’ll have breads and cheeses and a limited selection of produce now.”
The market will shut down for the summer and then reopen with the beginning of the fall semester and run through the typical harvest season.
“The goal of this market is to really target the student or the faculty or staff member who wouldn’t really seek out a farmers market on their own, so we’re kind of placing it in the heart of campus for that reason.”
The market also will serve an educational purpose.
“There’s a growing body of literature suggesting that farmers markets are a good way to increase access to healthy foods and communities, especially communities that are at-risk for poor dietary behaviors,” Ward said.
Farmers markets also encourage a sense of community and promote community involvement, Ward said.
“It’s more than just about nutrition,” she said. “It’s more than just about diet. It’s about becoming more connected as a community and thinking a little bit more about what we’re eating, savoring what we’re eating, understanding where what we’re eating comes from and kind of transitioning away from convenience foods and fast foods and a lot of things that have been attributed to poor dietary outcomes in our country.”
Ward found at least 40 other campuses across the nation that have farmers markets. Most are private universities, but public institutions are beginning to form them.
“So it’s something that I think we’ll see a lot more of in the coming years,” Ward said.
The same day the market opens on campus, the College of Public Health’s Leading Voices in Public Health lecture series will offer a lecture on rethinking food, which will cover the past, present and future of food in Appalachia.
This event will be held on April 5 at 7 p.m. in the D.P. Culp Center.