From the small pumpkins and the orange flowers to the fresh vegetables and rustic bales of hay, the farmers' market held outside the Konover Campus Center looked like any other traditional fall attraction. Upon closer inspection, there was a key difference. This farmers' market was run by students, with the help of a faculty member who is a nationally recognized expert in nutrition.
Marissa Cloutier, an instructor of biology and human nutrition in the University’s Hillyer College, has made healthy eating her life’s work. She is the lead author of The Mediterranean Diet, a popular book that explores the power of a Mediterranean model of eating and living for health. She also researches the impact of diet on climate change. Cloutier’s wants her students to know “they are what they eat.”
The farmers' market proved she is getting that message across. Students in Cloutier’s biology class and the “Issues of Health and Society: Weighing In” course decided to start the project when they went on field trips to farms, farmers' markets, and watched videos in class about the food system and the state of public health, particularly the obesity epidemic.
“The majority of Americans do not know where their food is coming from and to actually see that process is so empowering,” explains Cloutier. “I want to give people knowledge about where their food comes from and let them know how important it is too support their local farmers. Food is beautiful not the enemy.”
Vendors such as Antony’s Farm and Brown’s Harvest sold mums, pumpkins, fresh fruit and vegetables. The students wanted to make it a place for their classmates to spend time during open hour, so they reached across campus to make it a community project. Students from the University’s Hartford Art School, The Hartt School, College of Education, Nursing and Health Professions, and the Barney School of Business pitched in to help with business proposals, websites, brochures, and logos for the market.
“Instead of being in a classroom and trying to figure out what you can do for the community, I am trying to bring the community into the classroom,” says Cloutier.
The University of Hartford Farmers' Market has closed for the season, but look for it again next year. If you would like to be a part of the organizational team or are interested in participating as a vendor next year, please contact Marissa Cloutier.