As a leader it’s not often that you hear the words no and feel like that’s that, as if that’s the end. Leaders see the word no as an obstacle, it may be there at some point, but it’s surmountable. When working through the Office of Student Activities and Involvement as well as with the Office of Catering and Commercial Vending on campus we heard the word no a lot.
In fact, nearly a year prior to even stepping foot in professionals’ offices on campus, our attempt at starting the market was turned down by the university. Our next step was to talk to our Advisor, Patti, about what we could do to get this pushed through and gain the permission we need to start actually planning for our event. Together we discussed various offices we could speak to and the option of proposing that we go through the biology department of the university. Gaining sponsorship or simply support on that level would be very beneficial to helping us get the market off the ground. Our hunt for support and permission to host the market on campus lasted for quite a while, essentially we were continually getting feed back from the university stating that it was too much of a liability since we were dealing with the vending and consumption of food.
Frustrated, but not quite disheartened, our organization created a petition asking for the students of CMU and surrounding community members to express their support for an on campus farmers market through their signatures and written comments. We posted the petition all over facebook and spread the word throughout all of campus that we were looking to show the university how important access to fresh, local, and healthy food is for our students. The petition was, in our eyes, a success; it gained 753 signatures and 100’s of comments, however it did not persuade the university into allowing us our market. During the month of June I printed out several copies of the petition, including all of the comments, and mailed them to every member of the Board of Trustees of the university as well as the President of CMU and members of his office staff. We received no response from them until late august when one of the Board members sent us an email regarding the petition, but by then it was too late… we were already sick of hearing no for an answer and were taking steps down a different path to construct a successful on campus market.
Realizing that our original approaches weren’t working out was a bit more than a buzzkill for us, but it was the key to helping me challenge the process. The university’s difficult policies and strict enforcement of rules that had little guidelines explaining them allowed me to break open my creative side and work harder at challenging the process of approaching the production process.
Here is the link to the Farmers Market Petition if you are interested in viewing the petition or comments. 🙂