Farmers market brings natural food to RPI

The Student Sustainability Task Force and the rest of the sustainability community has been working hard over the summer. From creating a pilot composting program to revamping the single-stream recycling system, to working with parking and transportation to get a car sharing program in place, there are many passionate people here at RPI working to create real change.

One of the projects we are really excited about, though, is the RPI Farmers Market. This project brings issues of sustainability, community, and health together around one thing we can all agree on: delicious food. Upstate New York has a lot of incredibly lively farm land and grows everything from apples and pears to squash, greens, beets, and corn. Beyond this, there are people who make fresh cheeses, breads, preserves, and more.

If you have ever been to a farmers market, you know that there is something unique about buying food directly from the person who grew it. Far too often in this modern age, we are tricked into thinking that eggs come from cartons and beans from a can. Farmers markets break this illusion, but beyond that, they provide fresh, natural food that often cannot be found elsewhere. Once you have tasted a sun-ripened, local strawberry or an heirloom tomato, it is hard to go back. We aim to bring this charm directly to the RPI campus and make sure that it is so convenient that students, faculty, and staff have no excuse not to check it out.

To this end, the market will have its grand opening on September 2, right outside the Union on the 15th Street side, and will be open every Thursday from 10 am–2 pm year round, assuming all goes smoothly. In anticipation of this, we have been conducting a survey and have gotten an overwhelmingly positive response from hundreds of RPI students, faculty, and staff. The vast majority have said that they would like to shop at the market every week and while we don’t necessarily expect that the whole campus will do their shopping there, we do aim to expose the campus to a new way of thinking about food.

One graduate student surveyed said they thought “a farmers market on campus would make eating right so much easier,” while another student simply said, “This has the potential to be one of the coolest things to happen at RPI in a long time.” Of course, such comments have strengthened our resolve and shown that many people here at RPI share our vision, but we have also gotten some concerned comments. In particular, several community members have written to us to express their concern that this market will negatively effect the Troy Farmers Market or discourage students from venturing down the hill. This has been a concern for us from the beginning of the project, so we have worked closely with the other markets in the area throughout the process. Like those markets, our goal is to connect you to local farmers and fresh food. We believe that by picking a few core vendors to make up our market, we can strike a balance between easily and conveniently introducing the campus to local produce and piquing their interest to encourage them to visit the other markets.

For more information about the Farmers Market or to contribute your thoughts to the survey, check out this website. For more information about the SSTF and its other projects, go here.

Editor’s Note: “Sustainability” is a column granted to the Student Sustainability Task Force by the Editorial Board to discuss issues of sustainability on the Rensselaer campus and around the nation.