Campus Spotlight, Student Life

McGill Farmers’ Market creates community for sustainable eating

The McGill Farmers’ Market has been a staple of the summer and fall seasons at McGill since 2008. It returns again to McTavish Street this year, open on Thursdays from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Multiple vendors selling their signature products offer students a variety of food and flavour options, from De Sucre & de Miel’s avocado cakes and biscoff cookies, to the Cultured Foodie’s kimchi and pickled carrots.  

Jodie Anderson, U3 Arts, and her best friend Aneeka Anderson, U3 Arts, visit the market regularly. 

“We met up last week here and we are meeting up again this week to make this a little tradition,” Aneeka Anderson said. “We’re in our final year and, with COVID interrupting these traditions that we were forming [on-campus], we’re happy to be back and making the most of our last year.”

“It’s hard to shop locally and get such fresh stuff,” Jodie Anderson added. “Otherwise, if this wasn’t here, I might just be going to a big chain grocery store.”

Emma Leaden, MA2 Information Science, who visited the market for the first time, found it conveniently located and easily accessible. 

“This was right on campus,” Leaden said. “I know there’s a couple other farmers markets in the city that I haven’t been to because it’s just not as convenient.”

Leora Schertzer, U4 Arts and the coordinator of the farmers’ market, said that the market’s mandate is to provide accessible and sustainable food options to students.

“The goal is to promote local agriculture and local food production,” Schertzer explained in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “I think people like to meet the people who are producing their food as well. It makes it feel more personal. It makes you feel like you have more of a connection to what you’re eating and what you’re putting in your body.”

In addition to connecting students to local vendors, the market team organizes the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, an initiative that offers local and seasonal produce through a weekly basket subscription service. The baskets are sourced from Co-op au Bout du Rang, a farm based in Saint-Felix-de-Valois—approximately an hour away from McGill by car—that grows over 40 varieties of vegetables. 

With current agricultural production systems causing substantial harm to the environment, Schertzer said a shift in food industry practices is urgently needed to confront climate change. 

“I think, in order for that change to happen, people need to have some sort of personal investment [in their food],” Schertzer said. “It makes people really happy to see the farmers’ market. They recognize familiar faces of the vendors who are super into what they’re doing and care a lot about their projects.”

Among these vendors is Elba Vasquez, owner of Café Elba. Vasquez started her business in 2013 to help struggling farmers in El Salvador. 

“I grew up in a small coffee farm in El Salvador, and I know what it’s like to be working there all day long in the coffee plantation,” Vasquez explained. “When I was a teenager working as a coffee picker, I was making 50 cents for every 35 pounds of coffee that I picked […] Some people make only $10 a day working all day long.”

The proceeds from the coffee Vasquez sells at the market help communities in Central America. She has recently been sending money to students in El Salvador to help them buy school supplies.

Although she takes part in a number of other farmers’ markets, Vasquez appreciates the student demographic unique to the McGill Farmers’ Market.

“Young people are very interested in [my business],” Vasquez said. “They want to help us by buying [the coffee]. They are very curious.”

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