Anniversary Plaza hosts market with fresh produce every Thursday from May to Nov.

Stephanie+Ceman+of+Champaign%2C+left%2C+and+Mari+Kim+of+Urbana+shop+for+produce+sold+by+the+Student+Sustainable+Farm+on+the+Main+Quad+on+Thursday.

Stephanie Ceman of Champaign, left, and Mari Kim of Urbana shop for produce sold by the Student Sustainable Farm on the Main Quad on Thursday.

By Abrar Al-Heeti

Students who are looking for fresh, local produce on campus can visit the Sustainable Student Farm Market on Anniversary Plaza, located behind the Illini Union, every Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. from May to Nov.

The Sustainable Student Farm grows and harvests produce to provide to dining halls as well as to sell at the weekly market.

“Our initial and primary goal is to grow as much seasonal produce for the dining units as possible,” said Zack Grant, manager and director of Sustainable Student Farm, in an email.

He said they sell about 15 percent of their produce at the farm stand, and the rest goes to the dining halls.

“(The stand) is also our chance to direct market and communicate our food culture to the university and general community,” he said.

The Student Sustainability Committee funds the Sustainable Student Farm. The committee works to make the campus more sustainable and initiates environmentally-friendly projects, such as making campus more bike-friendly as well as starting an initiative to make MTD buses more energy efficient.

The farm is another initiative with the goal of making the University more sustainable by providing fresh, local produce to the community.

“Once or more in peak season, we’re gonna have another stand which will be either at the corner of Windsor and Lincoln or Race and Windsor, where our main building is,” said Mackenzie Ehr, a University student who works at the student farm and sells produce at the market.

She said this second stand is a way to reach out to people who don’t have access to the Quad or are driving on their way home from work.

Now at the start of its sixth growing season, the Sustainable Student Farm lies across eight to nine acres of land, Grant said, but there is only production on about half of that space. The rest is in fallow rotation with cover crops.

“We’re completely organic, even though we’re not organic certified,” said Erin Campbell, a University student who also works at the student farm and at the market.

Grant said the farm is “now involved in organic research projects, outreach to growers, on farm training and multidisciplinary cross-departmental collaborations.”

Ehr said the farm is also working to receive Good Agricultural Practices certification, which is a cleanliness certificate from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in recognition of sanitary food, work stations, workers and sanitary production after harvest.

“We are expanding nearly every year by some amount,” Grant said. “This year we are going to be planting and attempting to harvest more tomatoes than ever before.”

He said the farm is starting a new project with the University department of food sciences’ pilot plant to modernize their production facility to process tomatoes from the farm into tomato products like sauce for the dining units.

“Overall, this year is shaping up just like last year,” he said. “Wet early on, but pretty productive.”

Customers can be guaranteed the food they purchase from the market is fresh.

“We harvest everything the day of the sale,” Campbell said.

The money from the sale goes toward producing more food in the Sustainable Student Farm through the purchase of more seeds and utilities.

“It all goes back into the farm,” Campbell said.

Abrar can be reached at [email protected]