University of Mississippi Joins local organizations to provide fresh, locally-sourced produce
Healthy food met hearty appetites at the corner of Business Row and Dormitory Row on Thursday, October 19, 2023, as The Farmstand made its debut on the University of Mississippi campus.
The stand is the result of an innovative partnership between the UM Office of Sustainability, Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, and the Oxford Community Market. The outlet is open weekdays from 10 am to 2 pm.
The truck will feature programming that changes daily. Besides offering fresh produce, it will host local guest chefs, rotating vendors from the Oxford Community Market, and menus and materials from the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management. Ole Miss Dining Services will prepare the meals using locally sourced ingredients.
Renowned chef Corbin Evans served orders from students, staff, faculty, and visitors from the local community on opening day.
“To have one of the best chefs in our area offering healthy food is the most awesome thing,” said Doug Davis, associate professor of educational leadership. “The food is just delicious and I’m glad that The Farmstand is here to offer it.”
Evans’ name was all it took for Greg Johnson to patronize The Farmstand.
“When I saw his name on social media as the chef for today, I knew that I would be among the first in line,” said Johnson, head of special collections and blues curator in the J.D. Williams Library. “For vegetarians like me, it’s hard to find healthy options for dining on campus. This setup is perfect!”
Though Evans has been a chef for years, The Farmstand is his first food truck experience.
“When the idea for it was presented to me and I was offered to be the ‘guinea pig’ chef, I said to myself, ‘Sounds like a plan,'” Evans said. “I’ve always said that local is best. I love farmers markets and building relationships with the local farmers.
“Having this Farmstand is a very smart idea for the kids – especially those not from this area.”
Graduate students from the coordinated program in dietetics will help create the menus as part of their experiential learning requirements and preparation to become registered dietitians, said Emmy Parkes, senior lecturer in nutrition and hospitality management.
“In a meeting with the CP director over the summer, Chef Michael Brainard proposed the idea of using the Farmstand to showcase the students’ required ‘theme meal’ assignment and the collaboration began,” Parkes said.
The Farmstand concept was originally the result of a brainstorming session around a USDA grant application for local food procurement, said Kendall McDonald, associate director of the Office of Sustainability.
“Ole Miss Dining wanted to follow through on The Farmstand truck regardless of whether or not the university received that particular grant,” she said. “That was certainly a demonstration of their commitment to the relationship with OXCM and a good-faith response to members of the UM community asking for greater endorsement of sustainable food systems.”
The venture provides a mutually beneficial connection between the Ole Miss campus and family-owned farms throughout the area, said Laura Martin, executive director of the Grisham-McLean Institute.
“The Grisham-McLean Institute began our partnership with the Oxford Community Market since 2018,” Martin said. “Since that time, we have had a continuous partnership through the North Mississippi VISTA Project.
“OXCM works tirelessly to promote food security in our community and economic opportunity for their growers and producers. It’s exciting to bring the market to campus to continue to foster closer collaboration among community and campus partners.”
The Farmstand will help students, faculty and staff enjoy and support local farmers as they consider their everyday dining options on campus.
“By offering meals at-cost to customers, Ole Miss Dining aims to provide a healthy and affordable option to customers,” said Amy Greenwood Anderson, director of Ole Miss Dining. “As the Farmstand becomes an integral part of the campus community, Ole Miss Dining envisions a brighter, healthier future where sustainable practices, community engagement, and local partnerships take center stage.”
Betsy Chapman, director of the Oxford Community Market, called the partnership a “win-win” situation.
“Every year, we see growth in the demand for local food from college students and we also see that students really want to connect with the community in meaningful ways during their time at Ole Miss,” Chapman said.
“Our hope is that this partnership with Ole Miss Dining will result in increased awareness of our local farmers among UM students as well as increased numbers of students getting involved in and benefiting from the grassroots community engagement opportunities that OXCM offers.”
By Edwin B. Smith