Selling red strawberries, orange tomatoes, and other organic fruits and vegetables, the new Santa Barbara City College Farmers Market drew a small but enthusiastic crowd of students and faculty to its West Campus produce last Wednesday.
The farmers market—which hosted Lompoc-based Tutti Frutti Farms as its only vendor—drew more than one hundred customers in its second week, according to student organizer Jason Feingerts.
Although organizers are pleased with the project’s early success, they maintain that the larger goal of the market—which featured reusable cloth grocery bags, banners cut from old fabric samples, and a homemade prize wheel constructed out of an old tire—is to spread a message that promotes sustainability.
“We’re here to teach people about sustainable food production as much as we are to provide this delicious produce,” said Feingerts.
Originally conceived as a class project for an innovative environmental studies course, the student-run market was launched last week to increase awareness and availability of healthy food at SBCC.
“We did not see enough healthy options on campus—no organic, no vegan,” said Feingerts, one of four SBCC students who organized the market for their course, titled “Projects in Sustainability,” this past spring.
After developing their idea for the market at the beginning of the semester, Feingerts and his group spent the past few months securing approval from the administration, recruiting Tutti Frutti Farms to supply produce, and spreading the word across campus.
The turnout of several hundred people at last Wednesday’s inaugural market, Feingerts said, was “beyond anything we expected.” And although Wednesday’s market drew a smaller crowd, organizers said the project has great potential.
When school starts up again in the fall, organizers hope to expand the market by bringing in four additional produce vendors and hosting local sustainability minded organizations such as the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition.
“We’re trying to cultivate a community here,” said Feingerts, who also serves as president of the Student Sustainability Coalition on campus. “We’re looking to make this not just a farmers market, but also a hub where people can come out and learn from each other.”
The farmers market has already expanded beyond the West Campus lawn. In the first two weeks of the project, SBCC Food Services has purchased produce to serve in the cafeteria for Thursday’s lunch.
Environmental studies lecturer Adam Green — who insists that he never “lectures” in class — has taught the class since its inception in 2005. He said that this real-world application is what the “projects in sustainability” course is all about.
In his class, Green works with his students for an entire semester to help them brainstorm and execute a project that makes the SBCC campus or the surrounding community more sustainable. In previous years, his students have written children’s books, thrown a festival, held booths at the Earth Day Festival, and organized the Mesa Harmony Garden, a food forest at Holy Cross Church for needy families.
Green — who is also the director of the SBCC Center for Sustainability — said he is “impressed” with the farmers market that sprung from his course, adding that he thinks the project has brought student life to the normally quiet SBCC campus.
“It’s generating energy at a college campus where that is desperately needed,” he said. “[These students] actually get to create a sense of community on a campus that is known as a commuter college.”
As a result of his students’ hard work, he said, “They’re sitting here looking at a farmers market that they have brought to campus. It’s a pretty empowering process.”
Customers at the market echoed Green’s sentiment. “It’s a wonderful cause; a wonderful idea,” said shopper Janet Shapiro, the outgoing director of Disabled Student Programs and Services (DSPS) on campus. “I think it may cause some changes in eating habits,” she said, just before being distracted by a display of bright, green beans. “Oh, they have fava beans! I love fava beans,” she gushed, scooping the pods into her bag.
The SBCC Farmers Market will be held on West Campus from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. every Wednesday for the duration of SBCC’s six-week summer session.