On Monday afternoons from 5-7 p.m. Tate Lawn is the place to be in Banner Elk for Lees-McRae's very own farmers' market complete with items including local homegrown veggies, fresh maple syrup, all natural beef, pork and chicken and fresh-baked cakes and breads.
Brainchild of the newly formed student group LOCAL (Lees-McRae On-Campus Agriculture and Life), the Lees-McRae Farmers' Market is raising awareness about local and organic foods on campus and connecting the College with local farmers and the community.
Katie Hayes, advisor of LOCAL, says the farmers' market is also a visible way to show that the College is participating in "green" practices. "By eating locally grown food, the average American can reduce their fuel consumption considerably. We are demonstrating to prospective and current students that we care about the environment," said Hayes.
LOCAL and the farmers' market have the support of President Buxton. "It's important for our students to have access to vegetarian, organic and local food options," said President Barry Buxton, who is working closely with the College's food service provider to improve these types of food options in the dining hall. "Giving our students access to healthy food options while supporting local farmers is a win-win scenario for the College."
President Buxton is working with ARAMARK Higher Education and its Green Thread initiative to reduce the College's environmental impact while improving food options in the dining hall. "We're thrilled to work with ARAMARK. They are committed to environmental stewardship, sustainable practices, providing local food options and improving the health of our students. These are all things Debbie and I strongly believe in," said President Buxton.
Participating farmers are also giving back to Lees-McRae through a $5 weekly fee for the College's Monday market. This fee will be used for advertising money for a student-led service learning project this fall. "The market will be able to foster service learning opportunities among our students," said Hayes.
"We hope faculty, staff and community members will swing by Tate Lawn on Mondays to supplement their grocery shopping for the week," Hayes continued. "The selection will only improve during the summer as more local produce becomes available."
LOCAL is doing some farming of its own on campus. Students in the group hoped to grow their own produce for the market, but decided to grow fruits and vegetables for the wildlife center on campus.
In exchange for a plot of land to use as an on-campus garden, LOCAL is growing food for the animals at the Blue Ridge Wildlife Institute located alongside the Elk River on Lees-McRae's campus. The group is currently growing squash, strawberries, peas and carrots to supplement the pantry for the animals housed at the BRWI.
For more information about LOCAL and Lees-McRae's Farmers' Market, contact Katie Hayes at email@example.com or 828.898.8772.
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