Although the seeds were planted last school year, FGCU’s Farmers Market truly blossomed and bore fruit this year thanks to a higher profile, new features and more market days.
After its first year as a monthly bazaar in a North Lake Village parking lot, the market moved to a more central location on the Library Lawn and expanded its schedule to twice a month. Fresh, regionally grown produce, handcrafted jewelry and apparel, and earthy soaps and essential oils now are sold 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every other Tuesday. The final markets this semester are April 4 and 21.
Student Government Director of Sustainability Uzair Iqbal took the market under his wing this year after learning about FGCU’s Food Forest inspired him to raise students’ awareness of the origins of food. He committed to expanding the market.
“Two years ago when I came here, I hadn’t really heard about the Food Forest,” the senior environmental studies major says. “I saw this as an opportunity to educate students about the food disconnect they have. Buying locally grown food makes an impact where you live, supporting local businesses and farm workers as opposed to big supermarkets.”
Consumers also benefit from buying locally harvested seasonal produce because flavor, moisture and nutrients are still at their peak. These qualities dissipate during cross-country shipping and weeks of storage. Most of the produce sold at the FGCU market comes from Immokalee in Collier County, Iqbal says.
“We want to educate students about where their food is coming from and encourage them to eat better and make healthy choices,” he says. “We’ve had a really positive response. A lot of students say now they don’t have to drive off campus (for fresh fruit and vegetables). It’s changing their habits.”
Recently, market volunteers have begun distributing recipe cards for cooking with produce from the market and the Food Forest, a community botanical garden founded and maintained by and for students. Culinary demonstrations are in the works, too, Iqbal says. A trial run is planned for FGCU’s Earth Day celebration on April 7.
Follow the FGCU Farmers Market on Facebook for more information. https://www.facebook.com/FGCUFarmersmarket