Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 14
 
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
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Campus Greening: Student-Run Farmer’s Market Returning for Another Season of Organic Fare

Ellen Gilbert

With the promise of increased sunshine, and warmer days, the Greening Princeton Farmer’s Market, which begins its fourth season next week, will arrive in time to welcome the spring.

Spearheaded by two Princeton University students, Kathryn Andersen and Ruthie Schwab, the market features organic produce from area vendors. “Most of our farmers are actually within Princeton, or in Lawrenceville,” Ms. Schwab said in a telephone interview.

The main goals of the market are to support the local economy by providing an outlet for small farmers, cultivating a tangible social space in which to unite campus sustainability efforts, and educating people about sustainable practice as it relates to food.

The idea of the market grew out of University’s Dining Services’ proposal to a student-run environmental group, Greening Princeton. After some minor setbacks, Ms. Schwab, who is a member of the organization, took a closer look at the proposal, and reconfigured it to align more with the goals of the campus sustainability initiative.

“We worked really hard over the summer and spoke with a lot of vendors” Ms. Schwab said of the planning process, which entailed tailoring attributes of successful farmer’s markets to the campus setting. The market was located near Frist Campus Center before moving to the more centrally located Firestone Plaza.

Having determined the details and secured approval, the market opened in the fall of 2007, and has been in operation during both the spring and fall since that time.

“Food is the easiest way to lure people into thinking more about sustainability,” Ms. Schwab said with a laugh, adding that when she came to college, she knew she wanted to get students interested in sustainable practice, “especially those who don’t consider themselves environmentalists.”

As for those who attend the market, “We really have a good mix of community members, University members, faculty, staff, undergrads, and graduate students,” Ms. Schwab observed.

A senior finishing her major in ecology and evolutionary biology with a certificate in environmental studies, Ms. Schwab sees sustainable actions as a way of life, and wants people to understand their own impact on the environment. Ms. Schwab’s senior thesis is about apples. More specifically, she is “interested in how domestication and breeding has altered apple flavor and nutritional benefits.”

Intrigued by the idea in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food that the minerals in certain things we eat have deteriorated over time, Ms. Schwab wanted to test the claim first-hand. Her empirical thesis involves work in a lab to look at sugar content, acidity, and antioxidant properties of different varieties of apples. “It’s interesting because no one has done this sort of analysis,” she confided.

Her favorite varieties are the James Grieve apple, and the Honeycrisp apple, which Ms. Schwab described as “the superman of apples,” since it “is sweet, stores really well, and stays crisp.”

While apples may be a fruit of the autumn, plenty of other produce will be available at the Greening Princeton Farmer’s Market, which takes place every Tuesday from April 14 to May 5 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Firestone Plaza.

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