HAMMOND — Farmers gathered Monday in a small area in front of the Pennington Student Activity Center at Southeastern Louisiana University with the goal of selling fresh produce to students.
The market started slow just after the 9 a.m. opening time, but soon farmers began to arrive with a host of fresh produce.
“We’re just getting the food to the younger generation,” said Melvin Jones, a farmer and member of the Indian Springs Farmer’s Association, of Petal, Miss.
Jones, who brought with him honey, sweet potatoes, turnips, onions, strawberries and sweet peas, sold out of the berries just 30 minutes after the market opened.
Darnella Winston, of the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives, said the market is about “supporting the farm-to-school and farm-to-institution movement.”
For years, students at Southeastern Louisiana University have been on a mission to bring locally grown food to campus, Professor David Burley said. The market brings them one step closer to making their goal a reality.
In addition to offering a host of home-grown fruits and vegetables, including collard greens, mustard greens, arugula, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, cucumbers and pecans, sometimes a chef prepares locally grown food at the farmer’s market to show students how to prepare the items.
“As we grow, we might be able to bring local meat farmers to the market,” Burley said, adding that the market also helps to create a sense of community on campus.
Donna Kennedy, of Natalbany, purchased a variety of fresh produce Monday, and said she now doesn’t have to worry about the pesticides that often come with produce purchased in a grocery store.
Burley agreed that the food grown by local farmers contains less pesticides, if any.
SLU represents one university participating in the Real Food Challenge. Starting in 2011, Reconnect — the University’s environmental club — began negotiating with Aramark, the campus’s dining managers, to campaign for more locally grown, sustainable food to be served on campus.