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BYU's first Stadium Farmers Market draws eager crowd

Published: Thursday, Sept. 23 2010 11:07 p.m. MDT

Bright orange pumpkins were among the many varieties of produce offered as part of the first farmers market.

Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

PROVO — Eight-year-old Sophie Barson held her squatty orange pumpkin with both hands, her eyes flitting between the bags of softball-sized peaches and the racks of honey, hair ribbons and ice cream.

"I wish I brought my money," she said wistfully. "Then I could have bought everything."

Luckily, mom Jill was close by to ensure that Sophie and her siblings got cupcakes and pumpkins at the first BYU Stadium Farmers Market on Thursday in the parking lot just south of LaVell Edwards Stadium.

"I think it's great," Jill Barson said, who added she's always looking to buy organic. "I'm really impressed at the turnout they were able to get for their first time."

BYU organizers estimated that nearly 5,000 people came to buy local produce, treats or crafts during the inaugural event. The next three markets are scheduled for Sept. 30, Oct. 7 and Oct. 14 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Dean Wright, director of BYU Dining Services, said the idea came from students who mentioned they wanted to visit local farmer's markets but doing so was difficult without a car.

Thanks to a collaborative effort at the university, the Stadium Farmer's Market was created as another way to "nourish the campus community," Wright said.

The focus is on local growers, with at least half of the booth space dedicated to organic tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, broccoli, jalapeno peppers, zucchini, corn, squash, pumpkins and melons.

But for Tim Colvin, a sophomore from Preston, Idaho, it was all about the raspberries. He carried two cartons in his hand, one already half-eaten.

"Anytime I can get organic food I'll take it," he said, eating as he talked. "There's good stuff here."

Colvin and his friends Ashley Hipps and Cynthia Sun wandered the booths Thursday afternoon, a bag of peaches on Sun's arm.

"It reminds me of home," Hipps said, adding her hometown of Asheville, N.C., has an active, local organic scene. "Who doesn't love to be outside with all this local food?"

One booth offering squash and tomatoes informed buyers: "No pesticides. Grown in dirt," and "Picked by teenage slaves."

At the cooking demonstration tent, BYU executive chef John McDonald was whipping up peach-based recipes, and next to him, Pam Angus was encouraging customers to smell her thick "Christmas Gold" soap that exudes holiday spirit.

"I think it's a great idea, get all your produce without leaving campus," said Angus, a farmer's market pro, having sold Pam's Soap in similar markets for 12 years. "I'm all for local."

Along with lavender, rose or sandalwood soap from Angus, customers could also buy wooden clocks, earrings, tie-dye shirts or hair accessories.

There were 26 vendors on Thursday, but another half-dozen people approached Doug Patterson, assistant manager of concessions, asking how to get a booth. The market is full now, but next year it will be bigger, Wright and Patterson say, so long as they can keep it 50 percent growers.

And that's how Susannah Furr likes it. She and her husband spent several years in the Bay Area where she fell in love with the long California growing seasons and the robust farmer's markets.

Thursday evening found Furr and her four children sitting on the grass eating ice cream and snow cones as they listened to music. It wasn't quite the massively large California markets she was used to, but "it has to start somewhere," she said. "We love that they're trying."

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com

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