Patrick Wall, Style Editor

This is not the plan Smart Markets founder Jean Janssen had in mind. Less than two months into the school year, there is growing concern that her farmer’s market, like much of the produce sold there, will not survive the winter.

Janssen is locked in a scuffle with George Mason University over the future of her program. According to Janssen, University Services has informed her that they plan to close the market at the end of October to assess its future.

Last year, University Services started investigating farmer’s markets to bring to campus. They decided on Smart Markets, and opened the market on Earth Day last year, continuing during the summer. It started with only a few vendors, but slowly gained momentum as the summer progressed.

It was a hit with faculty and staff and is now reaching an increasing student audience. Mason’s market was recently named the third best small market in the country by American Farmland Trust. However, tensions between Mason and the market began when, according to Assistant Vice President of University Services Mark Kraner, the university asked Janssen to submit language to change their contract.

According to Janssen, Mason is neglecting the goal of Smart Markets. According to the company’s website, the goal of Smart Markets is to “respond to a need in Northern Virginia for well-managed, well-publicized and guaranteed producer-only farmers’ market.” For Janssen, this creates a conflict of interest for the university.

But Kraner says these needs are already being met. The popular Southside dining hall using local produce, and Mason is actively seeking out new ways to provide students with locally grown options.

Janssen says she was able to attract vendors during the summer because of the potential of the new school year. University Services has said they plan to bring the market back next semester, but Janssen says it won’t be that easy.

“I will not be able to put together a market for next spring if we are kicked out now,” Janssen said in an e-mail. “No one will come back to campus in the spring when we did not make money and suffer another horrible summer to make money next fall for two months.”

The market’s vendors come from within 150 miles, which cuts down on transportation cost and minimizes pollution. Smart Market emphasizes nutrition, resulting in local families and businesses to sell their products to consumers who value them, all while building a stronger sense of community.

This is not to say that Smart Markets and Mason cannot work together harmoniously. “We are asking Jean what we can change for next year,” said Kraner, who added the university may look to other providers.

In the end, chances are good that Mason will continue to have organic and local food on campus. Who provides it remains to be seen.