The Pullman Farmers Market is a space not just for fresh produce or entertainment, but also community and culture. Vendors, consumers and entertainers convene downtown every Wednesday to share food, recipes and music.
“We’ve tried to use the market as a way to build community in Pullman,” said Brad Jaeckels, manager of the WSU Organic Farm, which has a booth at the market.
Jaeckel said while Pullman is traditionally a college town, there is still room for students to be more involved in local culture, such at at the Farmers Market.
And students are getting involved. One class is even making visiting the market an assignment.
To apply the values of sustainability and community in the classroom, Clif Stratton, an instructor in the Department of History, has teamed up with Lisa Carloye, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Biological Sciences. The pair has designed a Freshman Focus Group for Rogers Hall (History 105 and Science 101, respectively) to integrate field trips to places in the Palouse.
Stratton requires his students to turn in a worksheet to report their local findings to the class to "introduce them to initiatives that are centered on sustainability both on campus and in the community,” he said.
The goal of the focus group, named the Palouse Project, is to apply history and science themes of humans and the environment to local sites.
The farmers market is one of the 10 destinations students may choose for the assignment, which includes a cost-benefit analysis of produce at the farmers market compared to that at Pullman grocery stores. In previous years, Stratton’s students have found that prices at the market matched or were lower than store fruit and vegetables.
Aside from the economic and nutritional benefits, Stratton said the farmers market “offers something less tangible than dollars, than actual food, but a place to actually be, even on a stretch of pavement.”
While it is difficult to measure community as one would with price, Stratton hopes students will find the ability to tap into the community in a way staying on campus would not provide.
Some students at WSU are already dedicated participants in the Pullman food community. Matti Hannak, a 31-year-old sophomore working on her organic agriculture certificate, volunteers at the farmers market booth for the WSU Organic Farm. She said a few of the vendors are current or graduated organic agriculture majors, the program that originally drew her to Pullman.
In an area where a lot of the local economy comes from agriculture, Hannak said she finds it rewarding to know where her food has been “from the time it was a seed to the time it made it to my refrigerator.”
The market"does serve as a bridge between the community and the school. WSU has a huge presence in this town... whether we want to be or not,” she said.
Francene Watson, manager of the 4-year-old Pullman Farmers Market, said she loves when students visit the farmers market.
“You are the generation, you’re it,” she said. “I light up when I see what I think are undergrads coming down.”
Watson stressed the importance of creating a legacy of fresh food and the community surrounding it. Even though the community is fairly transitory because the student population refreshes every year, the tradition will still stay tied to the land, she said.
“We are stepping into a lot of unknowns in our world, and how we are doing that intergenerationally is a really important question,"she said."It’s not about one group doing all the work."
In the broader scheme of college and community, Watson emphasized the importance of university students finding a way to cultivate genuine connections, with the Pullman Farmers Market being one opportunity to do so.
“We go away to school, and we hopefully come back to our respective or imagined communities with new eyes and bigger hearts, and a deeper sense of what we’re capable of in terms of relationship," Watson said. "Not just to each other, but to the land.”
The Pullman Farmers Market will be held from 3:30 to 6 p.m. today at 240 NE Kamiaken St.