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To fight food insecurity, Northland hosts free farmers markets on both campuses

Student Life

To fight food insecurity, Northland hosts free farmers markets on both campuses

Northland Community & Technical College continues to find creative ways to support student needs and promote well-being for all.

Northland Community and Technical College is continuing its out-of-the-box thinking in finding yet another way to fight food insecurity on its campuses. After the successful launch of the Pioneer Pantry, an on-campus resource for students to stock their shelves with the essentials, the college’s Dean of Student Affairs, Jeff Pool, got inspired to do more. So he sent an email to faculty with a simple inquiry asking what more could be done. 

“I knew we have many coworkers here on our two campuses who enjoy gardening,” Pool said. “In the summer and fall you can often find a bucket of cherry tomatoes at the front desk for students and employees, as well as the usual zucchini and cucumbers sitting in break rooms. The idea to turn that into a free farmers market came from Rob Jung, our Biology Instructor, who offered to bring in some kale and cabbage from his garden. It all grew from there, pun intended!”

Pool took the idea and ran with it, developing a plan to host a free farmers market table in a more central location on a specific day. Another email was sent to a few known gardeners, asking if they would bring items. Northland Free Farmers Market was scheduled the following week. Three tables with a large variety of produce were set out, and the excitement started building almost immediately. 

“Everyone was excited,” said Rachel Larsen, Northland Assistant Director of Human Resources, an avid gardener who hosted a lunch and learn this past spring on gardening and preserving produce. “I brought a wagon full to the first farmers market and stuck around to talk to students about what items were and how to prepare them. Food brings people together.”

In the weekly employee newsletter, you’ll now find a call out for anyone who has extra garden produce to bring it for the week’s market. Apples from the college courtyard were also added to the mix. At a recent market, one student was heard calling her mom to say, “They had free produce today.” Another student was making plans for a jambalaya. 

“We know the cost of food is high, and we want to provide a little help for students and provide them with healthy, fresh options in addition to the staples they can find at the Pioneer Pantry,” Pool said. “I was delightfully surprised by how popular it was. We will continue this on Wednesdays in East Grand Forks and Thursdays in Thief River as long as we have gardeners with extra items.”

Even Dr. Sandy Kiddoo, Northland President, brought her own wagon full of produce to donate. 

“When Rachel did her lunch and learn this spring, we had an interest in having a college garden for employees to produce food for students, and we have put that on our facilities master plan. We know the health benefits of gardening, but the ability to share our abundance in a good way also warms my heart.”

Northland hopes to make this a regular event and is planning programming around helping students learn to use these vegetables, including an upcoming session on quick pickles and cooking with the President classes. 

“We encourage anyone in our community to reach out to me if they are interested in hosting a class or lunch and learn type session or making a food donation to the college,” Pool said. 

For more information about Northland’s Free Farmers Market, contact Abdul Chamma, Director of Student Life/Athletics, at 218-683-8680 or