Harvesting Success: Farm to Campus
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013
Updated: Friday, March 15, 2013 14:03
Farmers markets have become a quintessential community experience; they provide an opportunity for neighbors to peruse through stands of everything from produce to unique options such as daring condiments and samosas. Visitors to these often-outdoor bazaars have the opportunity to take a break, sample locally grown food and meet with the farmers who have actually grown the food. They can try paella or indulge in handmade pastries, all while staying close to home and the source.
Although Georgetown’s fall and spring seasons are now marked by the return of the GU Farmers Market (GUFM for short), it was the efforts of Bre Donald (NHS ’12) and Melissa Gadsden (NHS ’12) that first allowed the creation of an on-campus market. Donald and Gadsden’s brainchild — initially a project for a nursing class during their junior year spring semester — is now home to more than 15 vendors offering everything from apples to baklava.
To put things into motion, the pair applied for the Reimagine Georgetown grant and sought other sources of funding including from The Students of Georgetown, Inc., Eco-Action and the Georgetown University Student Association. Upon being awarded the grant, Donald and Gadsden were able to see their class project come to life on Healy Lawn.
Although the first market was relatively small — with only six vendors and a low student turnout —, the number of vendors almost tripled over the year, and the market became a regular part of many students’ Wednesday schedules.
"I was approached to take on a greater leadership role in the fall of 2011," Lexi Cotcamp (MSB ’15), current executive market director for the GUFM said. "By the summer of 2012, we were trying to figure out if we should maintain the status quo."
Deciding to go with the former option, Cotcamp, in an effort to expand the campus and community turnout, spent the summer frequenting other farmers’ markets in the area, including ones in Eastern Market and Falls Church, Va. She began talking to vendors to gauge their interest in promoting their goods and services at Georgetown. With the help of volunteers, she canvassed all of Georgetown, from Wisconsin Avenue to M Street, in order to get the word out with promotional flyers placed at popular locations such as J. Crew, Baked and Wired and Dixie Liquor.
"I interned at Sweetgreen over the fall as well, which pulls from a lot of local sources, and I had the opportunity to talk to different people there," Cotcamp said. "Farmers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet."
As volunteer efforts increased, the market rapidly expanded from the smattering of vendors on Healy Lawn to taking over Copley Lawn with giveaways, cooking demonstrations and an increased number of farmers and foodies. The central location and increased advertising kept the market from fading after Donald and Gadsden completed their initial project.
"We tried to get people to be able to come and say ‘hey’ to each other in a place that was closer than Safeway with food that was twice as good," Cotcamp explained.
With the new additions, the market can more successfully achieve its goals of giving Georgetown students and residents the experience to sample local food and providing an understanding of how farm-fresh food tastes and where it comes from. The market seeks to sustain a local and organic diet that can be promoted among its visitors through delicious and affordable fare.
"There’s no precedent for where we go from here," said Cotcamp. "It’s like nothing we’ve had on campus before. But the more we grow, the more we become hungry to continue and to figure out what will maximize happiness for our visitors, vendors and everyone involved."