As students get settled in Hamilton for the fall semester, the harvest season is ramping up at local farmers’ markets across the city. Farmers’ markets have sprouted up in communities in the area. The Downtown Hamilton, Locke Street and Dundas Farmers’ Markets are closest to campus, and the MSU Farmstand is on campus.

The influence of popular works such as The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating and The Omnivore’s Dilemmahave renewed interest in eating locally. Farmers’ markets have a rich history of promoting local food movements. The Downtown Hamilton Farmers’ Market was originally opened in 1837 and continues to enrich the community. Manager Donna Lee McDonald noted that students in particular have been a major force in ensuring the availability of local food.

The influence of popular works such as The 100 Mile Diet: A Year of Local Eating and The Omnivore’s Dilemmahave renewed interest in eating locally. Farmers’ markets have a rich history of promoting local food movements. The Downtown Hamilton Farmers’ Market was originally opened in 1837 and continues to enrich the community. Manager Donna Lee McDonald noted that students in particular have been a major force in ensuring the availability of local food.

“Youth who are seeking regional local produce and who want to support small shop culture and independent business people are bringing a resurgence to markets.  This is clearly demonstrated by the number of pop up seasonal markets that are in this area and in any urban area in the country,” she said.

The MSU Farmstand was formed in Summer 2008, during Mary Koziol’s term as MSU President, as a result of an OPIRG working group. The Farmstand, in partnership with Hospitality Services and the Office of Sustainability, aims to provide local produce to students and staff during the summer and into the fall.

Alvand Mohtashami, Director of the Farmstand, noted that farmers’ markets strive to create an inclusive and open atmosphere for their customers.

He said, “The right atmosphere is fun for a customer to explore and learn about farming and local food. The [students] come back with something they feel they can connect to rather than the grocery store experience which is a bit more mechanical.”

McMaster has been part of a provincial campus trend, which has seen students ask for more local food options. Farmers’ markets or market stands now operate at Queens, Waterloo, UofT Scarborough, Guelph, Ryerson, Brock and McMaster. Mohtashami suggested that educating students about the positive environmental, economic and health implications of buying local produce is paramount to farmers’ markets broadening their scope and targeting young people.

Lisa Anderson, manager of the Dundas Farmers’ Market, reiterated how students and youth have embraced the movement.

Specific initiatives such as the Hamilton Food Charter and programs run by Environment Hamilton seek to leverage community input into food security and food systems issues.

At the Farmstand, students can be educated about local food systems, meet with farmers and learn more about the benefits of local produce. In upcoming weeks, the Farmstand will be bringing new products from the Earth to Table Bread Bar and launching local food workshops and a farmers’ market tour, in addition to running their regular market operations. The Farmstand will wrap up its operations on October 31 with a Harvest Festival that will feature art, music and games.

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