Something fresh is going down at UCF. Students have cried out for locally grown fruits, organic snacks, and all those healthy goodies. Out with the Oreos, in with the oat bars! Their voices were heard, and starting today a brand new farmers market, “Produce on the Patio,” premiered. Local farms, businesses, and vendors selling fresh produce, health products, and yummy snacks will be tenting in front of the UCF Student Union every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. I had the opportunity to shop around the market on my lunch break and chat with some of the businesses.
My first stop was at the Sun Mix Oat Bars tent. As a gluten-free eater myself, their big sign that promised “Gluten-free! Naturally sweetened! Vegan Friendly! Preservative Free!” snacks drew me in immediately. As their title clearly states, they sell natural oat bars featuring the flavors of Pineapple Carrot, Banana Nut, Apple Cinnamon Raison, and some others. I was greeted by the smiling faces of Erica and Jaclyn, who were valiantly selling their last bites as I walked up. Luckily, I got to try some of their brand new Fruit Medley oat bar, which was incredible. I asked them what they thought was the most important part of bringing a farmers market like this to college students, and Jaclyn quickly answered that it is so important because when college students have healthy food readily available, they will take the initiative and eat healthier. Erica chimed in that she really loves sharing her passion for healthy yet delicious natural snacks and giving quality food they love back to the community. Sun Mix Oat Bars travels all around the area to different farmers markets, so even if you don’t go to UCF you should ‘Like’ their Facebook page to keep up with their travels.
For those of you looking for some fresh produce (even from the comfort of your favorite lounge chair), Homegrown Local Food Cooperative has your back. This not-for-profit local company has gone above and beyond to support a local economy by now bringing their farmers market ideology to your computer. While they will still be at the UCF Produce on the Patio every Thursday donning the healthiest looking fruits and vegetables I’ve ever seen as well as natural cosmetics, they offer home delivery (yes, home delivery) to over 40+ Central Florida ZIP codes with your choice of over 1,200 products. I spoke with Michael Nunnery, who was very excited to be at the new market. He thinks that, especially with the new online market system Homegrown has set up, it is going to be such a big thing for the local economy. He loves the fact that with small business it’s easy to create a personal relationship with the buyers and to continue growing as a company customer by customer. You can find all of Homegrown’s info and history at www.HomegrownCoop.org.
The last vendor I visited went above and beyond when it comes to small business: Todd’s Mini Farm, which is actually located on Rouse Road about 2 miles from UCF’s campus. Todd’s Mini Farm offers the freshest eggs I’ve ever seen (the eggs Todd was selling were laid yesterday!), jellies and jams, and fresh produce when it is in season. Todd told me that he loved being a part of markets like this and, especially, being a small business, because he gets to be his own boss and be in control of his own product in comparison to being told what to do by a corporation. He thinks that fresh products like his day-old blue eggs are important for college students, because if you don’t start living fresh now, you might never. Along with all of the other vendors, Todd and his Mini Farm will be at Produce on the Patio every Thursday.
In a country where it seems like everything is McDonald-ized and corporations rule every bit of what we do, it’s nice to see that small businesses like the ones I talked to today can still thrive in our economy. They’re sharing their passion for fresh and healthy food with the college students because it’s something that they are truly passionate about. If that’s not something fabulous, I don’t know what is. Being a Stylish Collegiette isn’t just about dressing on point, it’s about being healthy inside and out. Make sure all of you make it out to next week’s Produce on the Patio Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in front of the Student Union.