Journey to Food Justice

In an ideal world there would be more access to fresh, locally grown food for myself and all my fellow peers.

Everyone knows the world doesn’t reach an ideal state magically on it’s own and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

These two facts built the foundation of my motivation to change the attitude of my university towards an on campus farmers market, which I felt would get the ball rolling towards a healthier campus for all. The following pages are the steps that made up my journey to achieving this kind of reality for myself and my university.

The goal of my project was to effectively host a season long Farmers Market on the campus of Central Michigan University. I felt a farmers market was the best way to create more availability to fresh local food and facilitate interactions between the community members and the students, staff and visitors of the university. A farmers market not only gives people the opportunity to make smarter choices about what kind of snacks and ingredients they put in their body while on campus, but it also gives them more options for economic investment. It expands their horizons from the cafeterias and campus markets to local farms and small home business owners. It creates a space where people can learn about the food or goods they purchase and more than that, can get to know the vendors of the products they consume. These are all options found in the real world in regards to the economy and work-place that I feel our university is lacking. It’s important for people to know there’s more out there for them, that they don’t have to be limited to unhealthy, processed and overpriced food, goods, and/or services simply because the university doesn’t offer otherwise.

To make this market a reality, my Registered Student Organization (RSO) on campus, Campus Grow, linked up with the CEO of a non-profit, Real Food Grows, who felt exactly the same about our university’s situation as we did. I have been the co-president of Campus Grow with Meghan Marx for the last 3 years now. Last year Damian Fisher, the CEO of Real Food Grows, contacted us to extend our way his resources and abilities to help us make our goal of an on campus market a reality. Throughout the whole process of bringing the market to life we worked very closely with his organization, Real Food Grows. We involved Damian in every step of the way and often times took cue from his leadership when confronting members of various departments throughout the university system. We held meetings between the three of us, as well as with our contact and liaison with the Mount Pleasant Community market,Tyler Goudreau, and many a time took inspiration from the Real Food Grows business plan.

Real Food Grows is a non profit that seeks to make connections of the communities, families and/or organizations with farmers and farmers markets. It’s goal is to bring to community’s and people the importance and joys of farmers markets and the benefits of choosing to participate in a fresh, local, healthy way of life.

Since our on campus market was brought about through the efforts of our registered student organization on campus we felt it a good fit to work so closely with a non-profit. Many registered student organizations are very much run like non-profits and often times treated as such. The partnership between Campus Grow and Real Food Grows could not have worked out better and I believe that’s quite evident in the success of the market we produced.

I originally chose to use this endeavor as my LDR 402 project because it was something I was already going to be doing anyways (let’s be real, a college student only has so much time on her hands) and because it’s something I’m immensely passionate about; I thought that my passion for the outcome would carry most of the burden of the technical work and that I would breeze through like a parade leader, helping everyone to create a beautiful market. To be fair, I wasn’t entirely wrong. My passion for the market did make long nights full of emails bare-able, it helped me smile through the meetings of being shut down and politely walk out, on to hunt down the next office that would hear our case. What I didn’t expect was the shock, the shock of playing with the big dogs and suddenly my normal leadership philosophy was regarded like a small child proclaiming they were going to sit at the adult table for thanksgiving this year! I had to adapt, had to re-think my approach, the words I used, and not only that, but increase my level of conscious for every meeting, every interaction that involved the topic of the potential market. This is why I feel this project was perfect for the LDR 402 capstone. It actually called into play the philosophies I thought I was aimlessly memorizing in classes of the 100 and 200 variety.