The collegiate farmers market will increase its presence this year to offer healthier eating choices with Ole Miss Market Days.
Market Days will be on campus three times during the fall semester, beginning on August 25 and continuing Sept. 8 and Oct. 6.
“We are hoping that by increasing this number from one to three, more students will have the opportunity to shop at Ole Miss Market Days and learn about local food and the resources available in Oxford,” Office of Sustainability manager and UM Green Fund chair Lindsey Abernathy said.
Abernathy said the university usually hosts one campus farmers market in the fall as part of the annual Food Day Festival in October, but it is increasing to three to promote healthy eating options. She said it is essential to eat locally grown foods to maintain a healthy diet.
“The food that you buy at a farmers market tends to be healthier for your body because it was picked at the peak of ripeness,” Abernathy said. “Large-scale farming productions often alter their produce or pick items before they are ripened to ensure freshness on the journey from a distant farm to your table. This depletes your foods of nutritional value and taste.”
Market Days is also being used as a way to raise awareness among the university community of all the local food available throughout the year in Oxford.
Participating vendors will be selling items such as certified naturally grown produce, honey, farm eggs, herbs, fresh baked bread and seafood from the Mississippi Gulf.
The idea for Ole Miss Market Days came out of a spring 2016 Green Fund proposal written by civil engineering major Sarah O’Brien who wanted to share the many benefits of buying and eating local food with students, faculty and staff.
O’Brien said he was inspired to propose Market Days after researching the sustainable food industry and local food.
“I always loved going to farmers markets,” O’Brien said. “But I didn’t have a car here until this year. So, I could never go.”
O’Brien said he realized that this is the case for most students, especially freshmen. Market Days will be a way for students to grocery shop without having to leave campus.
“My idea was, in order for a farmers market to actually have an impact and people get the benefits of it, it has to be more often,” O’Brien said. “I did research when I was initially deciding to propose it of what food there was, what we have in Oxford. I saw that we were doing this, but we needed to do it more.”
Originally, the only campus market that was available to students was available on “Food Day,” and it was available once a year.
Abernathy also said she wants Market Days to promote the regular farmers markets in Oxford to students so that they can buy locally grown foods in between the markets on campus.
“Hosting a farmers market on campus exposes so many people that wouldn’t even want to go to a farmers market to all of the benefits of it,” O’Brien said. “It’s really making it accessible to students and faculty, making it easy for people to get really great food.”
Vendor Douglas Davis of Yokna Bottoms Farm said he has been a part of the market for quite some time.
“This is our seventh season selling at the market,” Davis said. “We sell naturally grown produce that we grow on our farm site. We sell a variety of produce based on the season: greens, spinach, potatoes, onions, turnips, radishes, turnips, among others.”
Davis said the market is one of few options for students who don’t leave campus.
“Locally grown produce isn’t consistent with corporate food structures on campus, so it’s nice to give students who want chemical-free products a chance to purchase that food and have access to it,” Davis said.
Students will be needed to help collect data during the markets so that the department can gauge the success of Ole Miss Market Days. Students interested in helping with Market Days can email firstname.lastname@example.org.