A sustainability course at UNM inspired a student to start her own farm and sell her produce at an on-campus growers market.
The Lobo Growers Market began in 2007 as an annual on-campus growers market in an effort to help students eat healthy, but it has become a six-week, student-run event. UNM students who enrolled last spring in Growers Market Practicum (SUST 364), a course that focuses on the economic and social benefits of growers markets, manage the growers market this fall. Vendors at the market sell locally grown produce such as green apples, garlic, eggplant, broccoli and squash.
UNM student and market manager Kimberly Barnett said she not only coordinates the vendors, but also sells her own produce at the Lobo Growers Market and other markets in New Mexico. She said the course inspired her to start farming and made her want to offer the community a better and more sustainable food source.
“It’s awesome to be able to bring food to students who don’t really have time to search out healthy foods,” she said. “They need brain food.”
Barnett said students have a lot of great food to look forward to in the future, including fresh corn, bread, honey and even tamales, and that the food available at the market is a great alternative to the processed and fast food on campus.
Lobo Growers Market staff coordinator and lecturer for the practicum Jessica Rowland said a local growers market will prompt students to buy local foods and make healthier choices.
“We had people asking ‘Why don’t you have tomatoes? Why don’t you have corn?’” she said. “So we thought, ‘Let’s put on a market in the fall when all of this produce is in season.’”
Rowland said supporting local, organic food is important and that a lot of people are unaware of local farms and growers in New Mexico. She said that, unlike some of the produce found at grocery stores like Smith’s or Walmart, fruits and vegetables sold by the vendors at the market are organic, which means that growers don’t use chemical pesticides or genetically modify their crops.
“All of these products are fresher and more nutritious,” she said. “You’re never going to find that at a grocery store.”
Former UNM student Aaron Vega, who works for Skarsgard Farms, one of the vendors at the market, said the South Valley farm grows all its produce on-site and pesticide-free. Vega said even though the produce at a grocery store might be cheaper, it’s not nearly as nutritious and could be more harmful than helpful for consumers.
“Food is one of the most important parts of life,” he said. “The grocery store marks up produce 100 percent, so you can actually make more money selling it yourself.”
Barnett said she hopes that the growers market will become a fixture on campus every year and will reach as many people as possible. She said local growers markets support the local economy and provide consumers with options they might not find elsewhere, such as multicolored heirloom tomatoes.
“It’d be nice to be here longer than just six weeks,” she said. “Fall is a great time for us to have a market; it’s harvest season.”