Though the skies above the Carr Gottstein Academic Center were an inky shade of gray, the tables on the grounds below were a feast of colors at the opening day of the APU Farmers Market.
Megan Talley, of APU’s Spring Creek Farm, laid out bundles of ruby-toned rhubarb and emerald starter plants. Far North Fungi displayed blue oyster and earthy morel mushrooms. Edible Alaska stacked copies of their fifth seasonal issue, an edition showcasing scarlet salmon meat on it’s matte cover.
The weekly event has come a long way from it’s humble beginnings in 2013. Back then there was just one tent. Dining Services would set up a tent for a couple hours once a week to sling homemade breads and produce from the farm.
“The ball really got rolling when Megan Talley came on board,” Chris Pavadore, Director of Sustainability and Dining, said. “Then the conversation switched to how can we make this multiple stands? How can we get the community involved?”
Now in it’s fifth year, the APU Farmers Market, held Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through October, has blossomed to include numerous regular weekly and monthly vendors.
This year saw the addition of the non-profit, Alaska Community Action on Toxics and it’s subdivision Yardacopia, a program that matches interested individuals with gardening space, knowledge, and plant starters.
“It’s a program meant to build community and take away any barriers of having a garden,” explained Michelle Wilber, Yardacopia’s Organic Gardening Coordinator.
Drool Central, a bakery specializing in dog treats and Far North Fungi, a new gourmet mushroom operation, set up for the first market and are still considering which weeks they’d like to return for the remainder of the season.
And market staples Manuel Bautista and his wife Soledad Lesacas are back for their third year, selling plant starters, tea mixes, and a variety of Alaska Grown products. They’ll be joined this season by their son.
“It’s important for us that he knows how to do this, too,” Bautista said.
The market also has twice-daily free yoga classes and will host a variety of other activities as the season progresses.
Though the make-up of the market is still in flux, organizers are optimistic. Each year has been more visitors, more vendors, more sales and more excitement.
And just like that first year, Dining Services is still slinging their signature sourdough bread made from a 100-year-old starter. They’ve also added a hot lunch option — chicken tikka masala this past week — and cooking demonstrations.
“The market runs through lunch, which makes it easy for people in U-Med to pick up lunch, some groceries, enjoy some time outdoors and be apart of the community,” Pavadore said. “I think this market has really carved out a neat little niche in this area of town.”