Work continues toward on-campus farmers market, Current economic climate to blame for stalled effort

Susan Murray

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A new farmers market coming to CSUN will give students a chance to eat healthier, with fresh fruits and vegetables. Photo Credit: Christianna Triolo / Staff Photographer

When Erica Wohldmann moved to California she made the conscious decision to vote with her fork.

For the last two years, Wohldmann, an assistant professor of psychology, has dedicated herself to starting a farmers market on campus.

“A CSUN farmers market would serve its 30,000 campus community, plus its surrounding community,” Wohldmann said. “I gave up purchasing produce at the regular grocery store and started buying only what I could from the farmers market. I’ve gotten to know my farmers and I know my dollars go directly to their families and workers. I know their workers are treated with respect.”

Wohldmann said their mission is to be regionally focused and nationally recognized.

“I know what I am (food) and am not (chemicals) putting into my body and I love eating seasonally,” Wohldmann said. “Here in California, we produce 60 percent of the nations produce. There’s no reason not to shop locally.”

Helen Cox, associate professor of geography, recently submitted a revised version of the USDA grant that Wohldmann wrote last year in hopes of obtaining start-up funds for the farmers market.

“In the current economic climate it probably would not be a high priority for the university,” Cox said. “If someone came forward and was able to devote the time and the funds to get one established I think that the university administration would give such a proposal strong consideration.”

Wohldmann said CSUN faculty are the only real active people trying to get a farmers market on campus.

“For the most part, it’s been us faculty who have been promoting the idea of a farmers market on campus,” Wohldmann said. “If this is something that students want to see, they really need to organize and get active.”

Liz Kioussis, assistant to the executive director of the University Corporation, said funds, which were being used for student projects, have been interrupted.

“The funding cycle for next year has been suspended unless there is a major change,” Kioussis said. “Any proposal submitted by the students to the committee would normally be considered but there won’t be a funding cycle, so it’s mute unless a miracle happens.”

Wohldmann said the administration has been very supportive and encouraging.

“I spoke with farmers, (and) faculty from other departments (to) set up a nice structure so that it could be sustainable and was not reliant on one person to manage and provided many learning opportunities for our student farmers,” Wohldmann said. “We’d be looking for farmers who use low-impact methods and only vendors who sell fresh food, nothing prepared. We don’t want the market to compete with the on-campus dining options, but instead complement them.”

Wohldmann said the food not only tastes better but also could potentially prolong your life.

“Our society has shifted away from agriculture, which in many ways has been terrific for our economy and has provided us with more leisure time. However, we have been so successful at industrializing agriculture that we now produce about 3,800 calories per person per day, which has contributed to the obesity epidemic,” Wohldmann said.

Wohldmann said there are few campus farmers markets in this country.

“A market at CSUN would serve as a model for campuses across the country who are considering one,” Wohldmann said. “I also believe it would serve as a spot for the campus community to gather, outdoors, to discuss current events, issues and to just break free from the confines of walls and florescent lights for a little while. You will find no ‘food-like-products’ at a farmers market.”

“I know what I’m supporting and I’m helping to create the world that I want to see and it’s not a world that’s shaped by industrialized food giants and huge corporate farms,” Wohldmann added.