University of Limerick:Developing Cultural and Community Sustainability: The UL Farmers Market

Contact: Maura Murphy (maura.murphy@ul.ie)

The UL Farmers Market idea originated with Colin Fitzpatrick and was established in 2008 by the university’s Environmental Committee. After investigating issues such as logistics, insurance and health board certifications, members of the committee went to local markets and handed out a letter of invitation explaining their aim – to create a conversation on campus about sustainability with regards to food. They were upfront with their objectives: they specified that they wanted producers (people who were actually making the food) where possible, and they wanted to work with providers who were local (to keep food miles low) and organic (to promote biodiversity). The people who are in the market are committed to these ideas too. Initially they were trying to convince producers to come, but now they have a waiting list!

The market has been leveraged in terms of learning. A reading group has run alongside the market: every week participants read an article and discussed it. The discipline of reading around these topics helped teaching staff conceptualise what they were doing and wanted to do in different ways. In terms of undergraduate learning, a lecturer had her first years design a communication strategy for the Farmers Market. As part of the process, students interviewed stall holders and customers and investigated the impact of the market on campus and on the community. 

In a larger context, the Environmental Committee sees UL’s potential to lead in the area of sustainability. AS one member said, “A recession raises questions about how people do business, what’s the purpose of the knowledge we have, what are the power dynamics implicit in knowledge and classroom structures, what kinds of skills are we giving people, what do we value. As with the Farmers Market, when you’re buying from the people who are actually producing, you realise that your choices have an impact. The idea of a strategy for sustainability ties into access and outreach, developing cultural and community sustainability. We would hope (without sounding too idealistic) to create a model community and an example of best practice.”


First established:
2008

Outcomes:
The Communications lecturer said, “This had a bigger impact than just giving a lecture on the topic, and you can tell from their work that they have gained a real understanding about why local food is better on many levels and on how to develop a communications strategy in a given context.”

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