UNBC Kicks off Second annual run of the University Farmers Market.

UFV delivers local produce, food, art and music to students and community alike.

September 11th marked the second annual University Farmer’s Market Kickoff. The UFM is a coalition of UNBC partners which includes students, staff, and faculty, that  work together to offer a venue on campus to allow for the UNBC community to support local producers and artisans.

From 11 until 3 pm the University Farmer’s Market (UFM) featured new and returning local vendors, live music, beer gardens, and games. The kickoff featured all of the local vendors that participate in the farmer’s market throughout its run from September to April. UNBC services and societies such as the Wellness Centre, Pride Centre, the Northern Uganda Development Foundation, and the David Douglas Botanical Gardens all had displays with information for interested individuals.   Attendees also had the opportunity to experience the food and services that local Prince George vendors offer to the community.  The UFM provides a place for students and the community to buy local produce, eggs, and crafts. However as the kickoff demonstrated it also showcases local restaurants like Spicy Greens or Zaffron Cuisine who provide hot food on the spot.  Fresh bread and buns were purchased from Red Rooster Bakery and sweets were brought from Pink Lady Cupz and Cakes.  What was very apparent during the second annual UFM kickoff was the theme of all local all the time and the connections melding between UNBC and the whole community.

The Farmer’s market was created with the vision to connect learning to real community needs, to make “citizenship” tangible and relevant, and to move beyond theory to application in promoting “the common good” through engaged participation in our community.However, getting the UFM on it’s feet has not been an easy task. “We jumped into this project with a pretty naive sense that it wouldn’t be that challenging to get a bunch of producers and customers together to strengthen the local food economy,” says UNBC professor Scott Green regarding the birth of the UFM. “It has proven to be much more challenging, a much richer learning experience and much more informative about community risk than we had ever realized.”

This year’s UFM kickoff had an abundance of local vendors and artisans but Dr. Green admits that finding local vendors in the community is not an easy task. “We need to increase our offerings of local food for people coming into the market each week. I hear this all the time in my conversations with people around campus,” says Green. “But food production in the region is pretty limited, and food producers are incredibly busy people. This says more about the economics and cultural values around food than our production capacity. We can grow a lot of food in the north. But, we live in a society that has built an industry around non-local food, and we treat it like any other commodity. We’ve come to expect that our food will be really cheap and convenient to prepare.”

“You get what you pay for, and we’re paying a real price in regards to health through the poor quality food that we consume,” continues Dr. Green.  “Until we start to value and support our local producers, we’re going to be stuck in a world of food that is disconnected from where we live and disconnected from our health needs as humans, both our physical and emotional health.”

The UFM takes place every tuesday in the NUSC building during the fall and winter semesters.  While the market is located in the student centre of the university it is not targeted directly at the students of UNBC. “One of the goals for this year is to make a bigger, more inclusive community. We really want to reach across the cultural and disciplinary chasms here at UNBC and across the larger PG community,” says Dr. Green. “We want to create a place where people from all backgrounds and ages feel welcome, where a range of perspectives can be freely expressed without intimidation, where people feel that they can meaningfully contribute to making a healthier community, and where people can have fun together.”

It takes a lot of work to put on a regular weekly event on campus and provide the community the opportunity to support local foods. “We have an amazing group of hard working, dedicated students and staff on the UFM committee,” says Dr. Green.  “We have a wonderful group of volunteers that come out every week to help and participate. And we have a whole community of people that come to participate in different activities and events we put on – music, games, arts, cooking classes, canning classes, bread baking. These people inspire me, and that is why I do this.”

The UFM is starting a promotion where if you spend $10 dollars you will receive a coupon for 20% off a mean at the Thirsty Moose Pub and $2 to hit the track at the Northern Sports Centre (on cheap Tuesdays). Even more reason for students and community members to stop by, check out the local goods and foods, and say hi to the volunteers who make the UFM possible.

Hanna Petersen and Gala Munoz

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