August 30, 2012

Creating a culture of agriculture

Starting this Saturday, Knox students who attend the Galesburg Farmers’ Market will not only have a chance to receive vouchers for food but also to interact with the greater Galesburg community.

The first 25 students to arrive at the Farmers’ Market, which runs from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., with their Knox ID will receive five “Knox Bucks,” or vouchers that can be redeemed at many of the vendors’ booths. Students who arrive before 10 a.m. will also receive one additional Knox Buck. Post-baccalaureate student Helen Schnoes ’11 hopes that this will incentivize students to get off-campus and into the community.

“I think this is a way that you can just do something fun and see something new in town,” she said. “It’s a way you can escape the monotony of campus … but it’s not under the fluorescent lights of Wal-Mart or Target.”

The Knox Bucks project is part of the larger Growing Galesburg initiative, born out of Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Nic Mink’s Sustainable Food Systems course. Schnoes, who encountered the idea of Knox Bucks while interning with the Center for Midwestern Initiatives, suggested it to the class, which then wrote a grant to obtain funding from the CMI, Galesburg Community Foundation’s Section 16 fund and Student Sustainability Fund at Knox (formerly the Green Fee).

“[We] created Growing Galesburg as an act, an experiment and an expression of community development,” Schnoes said. “We really want to connect with all people because everyone eats, so everyone relates … in their own way.”

Other additions to the Farmers’ Market include a hot food stand run by juniors Evan Lewitus and Yeojin Yi and free coffee. In the future, junior and Growing Galesburg member Kyle Walenga also hopes to have live music and activities for children in order to attract people of all ages.

“Over time, we envision the Farmers’ Market to be more of a social event … not just the typical veggies that everyone thinks of,” Walenga said.

Through providing a place for students to both purchase local food and have conversations with Galesburg residents, Schnoes envisions the Farmers’ Market popping the ‘bubble’ that isolates Knox students from the town in which they live.

“Everyone talks about the ‘Knox Bubble’ as if it’s something we can’t change,” Schnoes said. “But the bubble is only a psychological construct that we limit ourselves to. By taking these little steps … if you do them together, we really can become a booster.”

“It’s a way for people at Knox to see that Galesburg isn’t a pre-set environment,” Lewitus said. “They have just as much of a hand in the goings-on of Galesburg as any long-time resident.”

Students who visit the Farmers’ Market may also be convinced to take part in further Growing Galesburg initiatives, whether at the market itself or elsewhere in the community. Schnoes cited the example of a student intrigued by the idea of playing music for free on Saturdays in the future.

“It’s a unique opportunity for students to support the community, eat good food and have a good time,” Mink said.

The Farmers’ Market takes place at 360 E. Simmons St., between Kellogg St. and Seminary St. Walking groups will depart from the loading dock at Seymour Union at 9 and 10 a.m.

“It’s invigorating. You’re walking; you’re not just slouching to the caf,” Schnoes said. “Get out and about.”

Anna Meier

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