What do you get when you mix fresh eggplant with a tiny apartment kitchen and a student who doesn’t know how to cook it?
Well, if you ask Cat Sullivan beforehand, you may get a delicious and healthy dinner, a newfound love of cooking and a desire for more fresh produce.
That’s what the Open Air Market at Northern Arizona University is for.
The Open Air Market, just east of the University Union on the pedestrian walkway, is part farmer’s market, part craft show and part opportunity to raise awareness of sustainable living. The market, which is cosponsored by Union Activities and Campus Dining, is in its third year and runs every Wednesday for a month in the spring and fall. The market is open through April 26.
Sullivan, who is in charge of sustainability for Sodexo, which provides the food on campus, said the purpose of the Open Air Market is to promote sustainability. To fulfill that mission, all the produce comes from local farms, the baked goods (vegan and regular) come from Campus Dining, the vendors are from the community and the occasional live music showcases NAU students, faculty and staff.
Community shoppers can pay for their products in the usual ways and students can use Dining Dollars, which Sullivan says is the most popular form of payment.
“We have students who are interested in cooking who come back each week and tell us how they cooked the food they bought,” Sullivan said.
The market, while it is small, has a little something for most people. In addition to the produce and baked goods—a popular purchase among employees, Sullivan said, is a loaf of blueberry or banana bread that gets taken back to their offices to share—there are vendors selling crafts, clothes and other artisan items.
Heather Chamorro is one of those regular vendors. She owns Pink Sky Creations and sells soaps, lotions and other unique and pretty beauty and hygiene products. After years of selling in the city’s farmers market, she connected with Sullivan and started at the Open Air Market last year.
Business has gone well so far, she said, with bath bombs and lotion bars being her best-sellers. Everything is vegan and sourced in a way that’s good for the environment, and students have responded.
“There’s always a crowd coming in and just talking with us, having a conversation,” she said. “We enjoy being around the students.”
For people who don’t want to shop, the Open Air Market has a few options. Although it’s not a regular thing, Sullivan will occasionally invite local musicians or performance troupes; past markets have included performances by the NAU Capoeira Club and Swing Jacks Dance Club.
The market also is a good place for various clubs to advertise. At a recent market, first-year student Carlie Callaway, co-chair of Green Jacks, handed out fliers and answered questions about the group’s sustainability-oriented mission and its upcoming events for Earth Month, including Earth Jam on April 21.
“We’re out here raising awareness for that and recruiting more sustainable leaders,” she said, adding the Open Air Market was a great way to talk to people who may not be part of the sustainability movement. “People know who we are, but not everyone knows what we do.”
The Open Air Market runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Union pedway by the Wedge Market. It is open April 12, April 19 and April 26, then it will reopen sometime in the fall. Contact Cat Sullivan for more information or to participate in a future market.