Poor communication, lack of business and dismal student participation soiled the USF Farmers Market and caused it to be uprooted mid-summer, though it was originally scheduled to run from May 3, 2009, throughout the summer and into this fall semester.
The market was supported by the Pacific Coast Farmers Market Association (PCFMA), but according to Glenn Loomis, USF’s Director of Community Relations, there was not enough business to keep the farmers from the PCFMA interested.
“USF supports a farmers market, but we can’t support having a market if there are only four to five vendors,” he said.
An attempt to restart the market this fall was unsuccessful for similar reasons, and now a group of students and faculty are working to break ground on a new market with a new model beginning in the spring semester.
USF students Jon Coon and Brittany Rowles and alumnus Landon Leu are working with professors Melinda Stone and Seth Wachtel, as well as other USF faculty and administration to gather more student support for the market.
“It failed because there wasn’t enough publicity,” said Rowles, who is also the co-president of Back to Da Roots. She is convinced that student interest in a farmers market and healthy food options exist at USF. Look no further than the new Outtahere Café to prove her point.
According to Holly Winslow, Manager of Bon Appetit, two surveys were conducted and two presentations were made to senate this past spring semester to find out what type of food choice students wanted in place of Jamba Juice. The 800 respondents helped shape the new organic-oriented Outtahere Café. According to Winslow, the surveys showed that there was a great call for natural products.
Pertaining to the farmers market, Winslow said that Bon Appetit is a “huge supporter” and guaranteed that they would purchase $3-4 thousand a week of produce from the market. Landon Leu said this never happened.
“Bon Appetit made a pledge to buy some of their goods from the farmers market,” he said. “But as I talked to Holly Winslow, she said she was never informed about the opening.” Leu also said that he and Professor Wachtel, who had been working to bring a farmers market to USF since the fall of 2007, were informed a week before it opened. Leu also said he was informed that the school would take care of publicity and opening day ceremonies, neither of which ever happened.
Winslow maintains that Bon Appetit is committed to buying from the farmers market if it were to once again exist on campus. Senior Jon Coon is confident it will happen.
Coon first got involved in the farmers market last summer while interning with the Quesada Gardens Initiative. Professor Wachtel works with the group, which is how Coon met him and became aware of the farmers market project. Coon said the market needs a better location, possibly somewhere closer to Harney Plaza where many students spend their free time on campus. Ideally, both Coon and Rowles would like to have the farmers market in the middle of the week to ensure that students would see it rather than depending on people to seek out the market on weekends.
The economic burden of having a farmers market is an obstacle in bringing it back to USF. The San Francisco Department of Health issues permits to become a Certified Farmers Market (CFM) for a $500 fee. Additionally, each market must pay 60 cents for each day the market is open. The total cost to run a weekly farmers market on campus has been estimated to be $1,982 per year. A general rule of thumb is that each stall needs to make a minimum gross of roughly $550 a day in order to make it worthwhile for the farmer.
The Garden Project is trying to obtain an agricultural permit in order to sell their produce at the farmers market next semester and help overcome the financial burden. The profit would allow the Garden Project to fund itself and relieve USF of its expense.