Fresh produce finds its way to MC

Rachael Weaver doing a final inspection of the vegetables. Photo by Paula Guenther.

Rocky Park Farm brings fresh produce to Maryville College with the Ugly Veggie Stand every Wednesday from 3:45 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. behind Crawford House. Cilantro, kale, Romain lettuce, collards, beets, and broccoli leaves are a few of the foods offered. The selection varies from week to week.

The stand started as questions between Maryville College senior Rachael Weaver and Director of Mountain Challenge Bruce Guillaume.

Two questions that were asked: “Why don’t students eat fresh, local, healthy foods and how can we change that?” The answers were cost, and not knowing the importance of eating fresh, local produce.

“The Ugly Veggie Stand encompasses Fit. Green. Happy. in every way. Students can walk over and buy local foods, which helps local business thrive and it allows the community to know what they want to put into their body and where exactly it comes from,” said Guillaume.

This led to the two contacting the owner of Rocky Park Farm, Jim Kirksey, and asking him to bring some produce that can be sold on Maryville College campus at a discounted price.

Weaver is the farm-to-table intern for Rocky Park Farm, which made it easy to contact Kirksey. Her role is to find out campus necessities by way of fresh and local foods. A byproduct of this became the Ugly Veggie Stand, which helped to created affordable prices for the community.

The name draws in people’s attention and gets them to ask questions. The vegetables aren’t actually “ugly,” they’re a surplus of what wasn’t sold that week at the farm. They’re not as pristine as the other produce.

“People don’t like ‘ugly’ vegetables because they fear the produce is no longer safe or as tasty to eat. This leads to it being thrown away at the end of each week,” said Weaver.

Junior Paula Guenther is another student that helps with Ugly Veggie Stand through the Farm-to-Table Student Enterprise like Weaver. Farm-to-Table works to find students who are interested in local food and food education on campus.

Guenther has been working with Rocky Park Farm since her sophomore year when she was taking care of the aquaponics at the park.

“My favorite thing about the Ugly Veggie Stand is educating people about vegetables and giving them a way to buy them fresh and local,” said Guenther. New students come every week wanting to see what the stand
has to offer, and how it got the name.

Senior Ariane Mitchell experienced her first time at the stand. “Taking an environmental and health class has taught me the amount of plastic wasted in the United States, so I rather not contribute to the problem and get my veggies from here. Plus, I don’t have to pay for gas, and it is cheaper,” said Mitchell. Not only do new customers come weekly but existing ones return.

“I continue to come back because of the produce. The herbs and Romain lettuce are great. Plus, I enjoy that it was a student-founded group that will continue to be here on campus in the future,” said senior Isabella Moody.

The Ugly Veggie Stand now has a place at Maryville College to continue introducing students to new eating habits and produce.

The students will get to experience fresh, local, and unique foods. In the future, the Ugly Veggie Stand hopes to bring a greater variety of produce to the student and expand into a community supported by agriculture. This means that the produce could be ordered and directly delivered to campus.

For more information about the Ugly Food Stand or Farm to Table Student Enterprise, please contact Rachael Weaver at [email protected] or Paula Guenther at [email protected].

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