You are what you eat: Thursday Farm Stands on the Quad


Kenyon Edmond

Mary Jane Oviatt and Ben Joselyn assist customers at the Thursday Farm Stand on the Quad on Aug. 23, 2018.

By Pari Apostolakos, Assistant Features Editor

There is a big part of campus life right under our noses — and in our mouths. The food we eat is an important part of our daily lives, and often times students are unaware of where their food comes from.

The Sustainable Student Farm is working to change that with their Thursday Farm Stands on the Quad. Until Thursday, Oct. 25, the Farm Stand will be operating every Thursday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. The Farm Stand is located on the south side of the Illini Union.

As far as what students can expect to see for sale, they sell a variety of organically grown vegetables, said Mary Jane “MJ” Oviatt, fifth-year senior in ACES and Farm Stand Manager, in an email.

Oviatt said during the school year, they will have tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, onions, potatoes, carrots, beets, kale, lettuce, collards, bok choy, summer squash, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli, winter squash, garlic, herbs and apples.

The produce varies weekly, and Oviatt said she hopes to have her sweet corn available in September or October.

Organic and locally grown produce can have a reputation of being expensive, and thus deter college students from seeking out these food options and opting for cheaper — and usually unhealthier — meals.

However, Ben Joselyn, who helps run the Sustainable Student Farm, said that they try to keep the prices simple. Small packaged items are priced at three dollars a pint or two pints for five dollars. He also said that most bulk produce is two or three dollars a pound.

“The most challenging part of running the farm stand is bringing the right amount of produce,” Joselyn said. “If we bring too much, then the vegetables spend a hot day in the sun unnecessarily and end up a little ‘wilty.’ If we bring too little, then we run out of something, and (we) really like having enough fresh veggies to go around.”

Despite the fact this resource is readily available for students to take advantage of, there is a possibility the campus community would be intimidated by buying fresh produce if they have never cooked before.

This can all be solved with the click of a button, according to Oviatt.

“(The Farm Stand has) a weekly newsletter that goes out with a recipe, a list of what will be available at the stand, and a blurb about what’s happening at the farm,” Oviatt said. “You can sign up on our website… Also, all of the past newsletters will be archived and available on the same website very soon.”

If you’re concerned about enjoying the taste of the fruits and vegetables from the Farm Stand, there’s a good chance you may have eaten them before. Much of the produce grown on the Sustainable Student Farm is used in meals prepared at University dining halls.

Kenyon Edmond
Mary Jane “MJ” Oviatt assists a customer at the Farm Stand on Aug. 23. The Thursday Farm Stands, hosted by the Sustainable Student Farm, will run every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. until Oct. 25. 

The farm stand is an access point to a broader resource the farm has for students at the University, explained Matt Turino, manager of the Sustainable Student Farm since 2015.

“Food is such a big part of everybody’s lives, and we get the chance to show people where it comes from,” Turino said. “It’s exciting that we are decreasing the distance that food has to travel before it gets eaten by the students in the dining halls. Instead of tomatoes from Mexico, they are eating tomatoes from two miles away.”

Joselyn wants to get the word out to students about their farm stand.

The flow of people at the Farm Stand typically fluctuates throughout the day but there’s generally a good turnout each Thursday, explained Joselyn.

“We try to get the word out as best we can, but we also are always looking for more ways to get the word out and let students know what we are,” Joselyn said.

If you are looking to do more than just buy produce from the farm, Joselyn said that there are many ways to get involved. Their volunteer hours are posted on the website, and they have new volunteer opportunities coming this fall.

“Thursdays on the Farm is our new farm event where every other Thursday, volunteers will come during the afternoon and work until 6 p.m. at which point there will be a barbecue with plenty of vegetables from the farm, and with any luck, a person or two playing the fiddle,” Joselyn said.

Saturday volunteer hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every other Saturday, starting this weekend.

Serving the community is one of the reasons Turino enjoys working on the farm the most.

“Its really cool that when students come volunteer, the food they pick gets eaten right here on campus,” he said. “Who knows who picked which pepper, but every pepper we pick gets eaten by someone we might see walking down the hall.”

[email protected]