On a somewhat overcast day last Wednesday, the Princeton University Farmers’ Market opened for the first of four times this year. With a variety of organic food vendors, the market operates on the last four Wednesdays of the school year. The list of vendors this year includes Arlee’s Raw Blends, Cherry Grove Farm, Nutty Novelties, Tassot Apiaries Inc., Terhune Orchards, Orchard Farm Organics, Whole Earth Center, and Wild Flour Bakery/Café, so there is something at the market for everyone.
As I walked through East Pyne’s classic archway, I was welcomed into a small collection of stalls, overflowing with goods and crowded with energetic students. I approached a stall that was being eagerly examined for its cold pressed juices and introduced myself to the vendor. Medina, who has worked with Arlee’s Raw Blends almost since its foundation two years ago, confidently presented to me Arlee’s most popular products, delving into descriptions of the ingredients in everything from juices to wraps.
After answering a few of my questions, Medina pulled out a bag of crackers and began offering samples while continuing to speak: “We also have crackers that we make with the pulp from our juice that we cold pressed.” In an effort to reduce waste, they use the extraneous materials from their juices to create an entirely new product, which is just as delicious as their juice itself. When I asked her about her experience selling at the University, Medina responded, “It’s a great community event. It lends a lot of exposure to the store, and we get to meet the students and talk about what we do.”
I made my way through curious wandering students to a booth with a wide array of enticing baked goods. Under a large banner labeled “Wild Flour Café and Bakery,” a lively and chatty man named Gerry eagerly welcomed us into the stall. Excitedly jumping into a description of what Wild Flour sells, Gerry explained that all of their products were gluten-free, with a wide variety of vegan options as well. He continued, “This is our second year at the market, and normally we sell a few items that we don’t usually sell at the café. Our unique item is the zucchini tostada with roasted zucchini and spinach.” A lot of their most popular goods, including their scones and “savory specialties,” had already sold out. Gerry responded with a hearty smile when I inquired what his experience has been like with the Market for the past two years. He told me, “It’s a lot of fun. You know, you have a diverse group of individuals here, and it’s just always great hearing everyone’s story, where everyone’s from. You have different languages too — I speak some Spanish and some Asian languages, and I’m always trying to explain things to customers in these languages, and I get them mixed up sometimes… but that’s half the fun!”
Gerry wasn’t the only vendor who appreciated the diversity of the campus, something I realized after speaking with an energetic man named Rick, who was chatting with anyone who would listen. Behind a truck with “Local Raw Honey” written on the side, Rick answered all of my questions with a smile and a story, all while making sure that customers weren’t neglected. Rick described this year’s farmer’s market as one of his favorites, commenting that “it’s just awesome all the time. All the vendors are really cool, we are all buddies, and we hang out together afterwards. I like Princeton because it's so international, so I pick up a lot of different languages too.” While I thanked him for his time, Rick concluded, “Princeton is also a lot closer to where we are, so it feels a lot more like home.”
I left the market, listening to a group of girls chattering about the Cashew Cold Pressed Juice, a swarm of students discussing the Nutty Novelties, and a loud cry of “Bonjour!” from Rick, and I realized that even in my short time there, the junction of adjectives like “diverse” and “home” somehow felt like the most natural combination, where people were brought together from all different backgrounds to unite over the most fundamental of all human desires: food.