Natalie Losik, Global Affairs

For the month of September, every Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the North Plaza on the Fairfax Campus hosted a weekly Farmers’ Market, where local growers and producers brought their wares for sale to students and faculty of George Mason University.

Traditional Farmers’ Markets close shop around the end of October (like the one in Old Town Fairfax) and begin again in May of the following year. In recent conversations with some of the regular sellers, there is a real interest in keeping the Farmers’ Market on the Fairfax campus open through the winter. Without the winter sales, the Farmer’s Market may not continue ever again past the end of this month. The Farmers’ Market is an important staple to the George Mason community, the greater Northern Virginia and Maryland area, and to the world in general. There are some real benefits for allowing the Farmers’ Market to continue year-round.

As for the average Mason student, making healthy choices in a hectic, high-paced life can be difficult. Everything offered at the Farmer’s Market is not only delicious and fresh, but it provides a convenient and healthy alternative to potato chips and Red Bull. It is incredibly nice to walk back from class, pick up some apples and freshly baked bread, and walk back to the apartment with groceries set for the week.

Some have said that the Farmers’ Market competes with Mason Dining Services. With the Market only offered for a few hours one day a week, a correlation between a drop in Food Service patronage and the Farmers’ Market seems unlikely at best. Most on-campus students do not have the equipment to cook and prepare food for themselves in their dorms (and those who do pay a lot more for the privilege).

Even still, having fresh fruits and veggies readily at hand in the dorm is much better than pigging out on junk food bought throughout the year. Even with its limited hours of operation, the Farmers’ Market can make a big difference in the health and well-being of resident students (the “Freshman 15” is very real and it’s very difficult to get off once it’s on).

Mason’s Farmers’ Market also helps the community as a whole; every vendor is a local producer from Northern Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley or surrounding areas. Buying locally produced goods stimulates the economy at a base level and keeps the enterprising powers alive.

Also, the Farmers’ Market represents a wide and eclectic group of cultures and individuals: some of the regulars include bee handlers, Shenandoah bakers, Miss Booger’s animal aid group and representatives of the Mennonite community. Having even a five-minute long conversation with any one of these people can be enlightening, if not a real trip in entertainment.

Buying locally also helps the world in a noticeable way. The average American dinner must travel thousands of miles from start to plate, often crossing oceans and continents multiple times. Buying locally cuts down greatly on transportation costs, reduces environmentally damaging carbon emissions and protects fragile ecosystems. Overall costs are cut down (one can buy a bag of fresh snap peas, $4.49 per pound at the grocery store, at $1.50 for half a pound from a local grower), and the quality and freshness of food are improved greatly.

All things being said, preserving a tradition like the Farmers’ Market is important to Mason as a university, as a leader to the community and to the world beyond Northern Virgina and the United States. Keeping such traditions alive is an important part of who we are as an institution training the next leaders of tomorrow’s uncertain, ever-changing world.