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BU’s Farmers Market Supports Local Businesses

A chance to buy fresh on Thursdays through October

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Over the last few weeks, Jenna Connor has gotten really creative with eggplant.

Connor’s community supported agriculture (CSA) share recently gifted her with a big batch of the purple nightshade, and she didn’t want to waste any of it. First she made ginger teriyaki eggplant, then moved on to eggplant parm. Next came a few bok choy–eggplant combinations and some eggplant–Napa cabbage stir-fry.

“I like the farm share a lot,” says Connor (SAR’18), at the bustling BU Farmers Market on the George Sherman Union Plaza recently to pick up the week’s box. “I signed up this year because it was my first year in an apartment, and I wanted to support the local farms. I’m forced to make what’s in the box, and that’s a good thing. I’m constantly looking up new recipes.”

The CSA boxes comprise just a small part of the Farmers Market, which is overseen by Dining Services and is now in its fifth year. Held every Thursday from September through the end of October, the market consists of a dozen or so local farms and businesses that sell their goods on a rotating basis, including Pam’s Black Bean Salsa, Kitchen Millie cookie company, and Marshalls Farm Stand in Gloucester.

“It’s been very successful,” says David Frank, Dining Services director of sustainability. “It has been transformed into a farmers and sustainability market, because it’s not just produce—it’s also vendors who promote and drive sustainability in the local community. We want to help students engage locally with vendors instead of going to the big box stores.”

Hosting the market is an extension of Dining Services’ commitment to food sustainability. According to its 2016 Sustainability Report, the University aims to procure 25 percent of its food from sustainable food sources by 2020. Last year, 23 percent of BU’s food was locally or regionally produced or else certified by a third party as meeting ecological, animal-humane, or fair-trade standards.

On this fall afternoon, Commonwealth Coffee Company founder Olin Nelson, who has been selling his cold brew coffee for about a year, both out of a tap and in bottles, is manning a bike pushcart. “We have a really strong millennial following, so this market made sense for us,” Nelson says. “We want to be similar to the craft beer movement, but with coffee. We’ve received quite a lot of interest from students, but it might be because they will go for pumpkin spice anything.”

Proving his point, a few minutes later Lena Sabidussi eyes a glass bottle of the pumpkin spice coffee. “There’s no sugar in this, right?” Sabidussi (ENG’19) asks, clutching a plastic bag of apples. “Usually all I get here are apples,” she says. “I only found out about the market recently so I’ll definitely be stopping by more.”

Right outside the glass doors of the GSU, the Chica de Gallo tent is thronged with students wanting to taste the company’s artisan ghost pepper salsa, mango pineapple salsa, and guacamole, and to grab free stickers. Biz White (CFA’19), accompanied by her roommate, Hannah Cohen (CFA’19), munches on chips as she explains her shopping strategy. “I don’t have a game plan when I come here,” she says. “I get whatever I’m in the mood for. Last week I got apples and fruits.”

The owner of Q’s Nuts, Brian “Q” Quinn, has been participating in the BU Farmers Market since it opened. He prefers the BU venue to some of Boston’s bigger ones, like the SoWa Open Market and the Charles Square Farmers Market, he says, because he enjoys talking to the students, even though “they ask for a lot of free samples,” he adds with a laugh. His table is stacked with glass jars of his sweet roasted cashews and rosemary sea-salted almonds.

Taking up a large spot under a tree is Ward’s Berry Farm, purveyor of the CSA boxes that go to the BU students, faculty, and staff who sign up at the beginning of fall. Bill Ward, the farm’s marketing director as well as a Metropolitan College lecturer in gastronomy, says he enjoys working the market because the BU crowd is curious about unique varietals that aren’t often sold at Whole Foods. He points to wooden crates of purslane and a cheddar cauliflower, which is orange in color but tastes like normal cauliflower. “They want to know the difference between a waxed bean and a green bean,” he says. “They want to tell me about what they bought last week, and what they made with it.”

Ward picks up dragon tongue, a thin yellowish purple bean popular with gourmet chefs. “I love that we can expose college kids to different varieties of vegetables they wouldn’t try otherwise,” he says.

The BU Farmers Market is held on the GSU Plaza every Thursday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., through October 27.

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Amy Laskowski

Amy Laskowski can be reached at amlaskow@bu.edu.

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