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UCLA Farmers Market provides students access to affordable, locally grown produce

Students peruse a variety of fruits. The stand is one of several that comprise UCLA Farmers Market, a biweekly student-organized endeavor located at Bruin Plaza. The group strives to increase food accessibility through affordable produce. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)

By Katy Nicholas

April 27, 2023 8:45 p.m.

UCLA Farmers Market is bringing farm-to-table food to every Bruin kitchen.

Every other Wednesday, the student organization hosts local produce, bread and nut butter vendors as well as other sustainability-related student organizations in Bruin Plaza. The farmers market strives to provide fresh, locally sourced foods to UCLA students who would not have access to these ingredients otherwise. Aiding in affordability and convenience, the group works to create a community that everyone can be a part of with food, said Paula Preda, a third-year communication and history student, who will be the co-director of the club in the fall.

“I love everything that farmers markets stand for,” Preda said. “The combination of promoting fresh, locally sourced produce, supporting local farmers and also creating a community space is perfectly harmonized in a farmers market.”

Because of high costs, fresh produce and nutrition are not the highest priorities in a college student’s life, said Sophie Emayan, a third-year human biology and society student. However, the farmers market accepts EBT through the CalFresh program so food-insecure Bruins do not have to worry about sacrificing nutrition because they cannot afford the ingredients. She added that the organization also partners with local nonprofits that provide jobs and free food to support food security among students and local community members in Los Angeles.

(Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)
The Bruin Bear is obscured by tents and stands as students mill about. Sophie Emayan, a third-year human biology and society student, said the group wants to make nutritious meals simple and enjoyable for students who feel that they do not have the resources or time to eat well. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)

[Related: UCLA student elevates banana bread with small business BBL by Zoë]

UCLA Farmers Market takes its commitment to nutrition directly from the market into a student’s kitchen, Emayan said. Beyond the physical market, the group also has a newsletter where they share wholesome yet straightforward recipes to try and encourage students to cook their own meals, she said. Laila Adarkar, a fourth-year global studies student and co-director of the club, also has a startup called Cook This Kit. Emayan said that for every market, Adarkar designs recipes and collects all the necessary ingredients for a simple grab-and-go box ready to sell to students.

However, with Adarkar graduating, Emayan said the club is looking for new ways to interact with the student community and get them excited about the club’s mission. Some of their ideas include cooking tutorials, lessons about sustainability and in-person workshops. These workshops would incorporate tutorials on how to mimic Cook This Kit’s ease and accessibility with ingredients sold at the biweekly market, she said.

Preda said the group is also looking to expand its physical markets. For instance, she said they hosted a morning market in the off-campus student apartments last quarter where they showcased student musicians and artists who made clothing and jewelry. She added that the participants’ support for other students and the neighborhood-centered style of the event evoked a strong sense of community.

“We really want to keep offering a different kind of market space that’s not necessarily produce-centered, but aligns with our mission of creating a community space,” Preda said.

(Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)
Customers reach for fruit as apples spill gracefully from a basket. The market collaborates with local vendors and other sustainability-based student groups for much of their programming, while also strengthening the group's internal relationships through socials. (Jack Stenzel/Daily Bruin staff)

[Related: Bruin cooks up plan to promote culinary skills through meal kit, social media]

Community is an important value to the organization, Preda said, which hires vendors from local farms that frequent other farmers markets around the Westwood area. Adarkar said she goes to several different farmers markets to select vendors the club would be interested in partnering with. Their two main produce vendors have been with them since the start of the club, and at the most recent market, the group hosted a sourdough vendor for the first time. She said the produce vendors sell seasonal fruit and homemade nut butters and provide free samples to meandering students. For instance, their new sourdough addition consists of fresh sourdough infused with pea flower and turmeric to create a UCLA blue-and-yellow pattern.

As for the club itself, UCLA Farmers Market takes the teamwork of a few different committees, each composed of two people. For instance, Emayan said the programming committee is in charge of selecting other sustainability-centered UCLA clubs to table and advertise at each market. Along with finance and marketing, the club also has a workshop committee, which is responsible for the newsletter and external events.

Preda said the outside socials are her favorite part of the club. For instance, she said they once hosted a fundraiser where they handed out raw carrots as refreshments. This would have been weird for a different organization, she said, but because of the welcoming community that farmers markets attract, the act demonstrated the personality of the club.

The club also hosts regular potlucks and taco nights that consist of fresh meals. With meals ranging from homemade hummus to tortillas to intricate Korean dishes, Preda said all members are just as passionate about food as they are about nutrition and sustainability. Emayan said this shared passion is essential to the bare-bones purpose of a farmers market. She added that everyone in their community has an interest in the environment, food justice or student security, which strengthens the group’s mission even more.

“The market itself is pretty powerful,” Adarkar said. “Everyone’s just wandering, sampling produce. I feel like it is a force of positive energy on campus.”

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