From the farm, to the corporation, to you

Mentor's Circle
Courtesy of Bridget Dolan

Merriam-Webster defines a farmers market as “a market at which local farmers sell their agricultural products directly to consumers.”

The university has a “farmers market” in Mentor’s Circle every Thursday at 11 a.m., and it is operated by Dining Services.

The university advertises it as a farmers market that has local fresh produce and baked goods, but is it a farmers market if it’s operated by the university?

Farmers markets are supposed to be a place where local farmers sell directly to customers, full of individual stands with a variety of local products. Some farmers sell corn, some sell squash, some sell fruits and some others sell homemade bread. Some farmers markets have stands filled with pies, cured meats and canned fruits.

The most important part is that the farmers themselves are the ones responsible for both cultivating and selling their products.

The university, however, has elected to have a few stands, decorated with the Pepsi logo, that are entirely run by the same organization — the university itself.

Where are the local farmers?

Dining Services lists “responsible sourcing” on its website as part of its sustainability initiative called “Green Thread.” The website says, “We purchase local, seasonal and responsibly raised, grown and sourced products whenever possible.”

But there’s still a separate “farmers market” for fresh local produce. Isn’t that what students are already able to get from the dining hall if the university is using local produce in everything? Why is it even called a farmers market?

Words having meaning. When we say something, it is often because that is what we mean to say. Sometimes, people say one thing and mean another, but that is usually something done intentionally. When we are saying names, we are calling things what they are. Language gives us the means to describe the world around us.

So why is the university calling this a farmers market? It’s not a farmers market. It’s just a regular market.

A market, being defined as “a meeting together of people for the purpose of trade by private purchase and sale and usually not by auction.”

The closest thing to a farmers market operated on the university’s campus is the intern-run produce stand called “Fresh to You.” The interns both grow and sell the crops themselves. They are the ones responsible for farming the produce they sell. Fresh to
You has its organic certification and provides produce to several places in the Newark area.

The interns are the farmers, and they are operating their own market of sorts via the produce stand. If they wanted to, they could market Fresh to You as a farmers market because it actually falls under the definition of a farmers market.

But as it stands right now, there isn’t truly a farmers market on campus. The university is a corporation, and Dining Services is not a farmers market.

Call Thursday’s university-sponsored, Dining Services-operated event a produce market, or even a produce stand, but don’t call it a farmers market. Don’t call it something that it isn’t.

Bridget Dolan is the Copy Desk Chief at The Review. She can be reached at bmdolan@udel.edu.

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