Mason Dining hosts season fun at farmer's market and fair

Mason Dining hosted a farmer's market and fair to celebrate National Food Day on Oct. 24 (photo courtesy of Dakota Cunningham).
Mason Dining hosted a farmer's market and fair to celebrate National Food Day on Oct. 24 (photo courtesy of Dakota Cunningham).

George Mason University’s dining services collaborated with Keany Produce Co. to host the Southside Farmer’s Market and Fair yesterday afternoon in celebration of National Food Day. This is the second time Southside has hosted the farmer’s market, this time with seasonal features.

Seasonal produce was available for purchase such as spaghetti squash, cabbage, potatoes, cauliflower, apples, apple cider, and candy apples.

Keany Produce makes up 90 percent of the produce used at Mason, according to Ben McElhaney, Mason Dining’s Sustainability Coordinator. Although the produce is used in restaurants around campus, the farmer’s market offers a unique opportunity to buy raw whole produce.

“I am a big supporter of fresh, local, home-grown produce. I wish the farmer’s market would come to Mason more,” said senior Colleen Wilson. Wilson bought beets, white and orange sweet potatoes, and broccoli and intends to use them to make beet and potato chips.

Keany Produce’s Customer Relations Manager Mary Baren was at the previous Southside Farmer’s Market, as well as this one. Baren said apples are their most popular product at Mason, probably because they are handheld and students can walk with them. Beets and collards are popular as well.

“I would say [prices] are comparable [to big grocery companies], but we don’t do this for profit, it’s for the function,” said Baren. “[It is] to support local growers; local is a 250-mile radius. It’s more sustainable, and helps the local economy.”

Another feature was the pumpkin carving contest, which included three categories: scariest, funniest, and most artistic. Participants could enter individually or with a group. One student said she was carving because she used to carve with her family every Halloween, so she wanted to participate in the contest. Another student had never carved a pumpkin before.

“I’ve never done it and I wanted to see how hard it was, and it’s hard,” said senior Sha’Air Hawkins.

All pumpkins will be displayed in Southside over the next several days for student judging. Afterwards, winners will be awarded goodie bags from Mason Dining, according to a McElhaney.

There was also a featured cook-off competition between two teams. The winning team was Charles Coats and Caitlin Lundquist who concocted teriyaki rice with garlic, onion, rosemary, and sage paired with a bean chili consisting of carrots, onions, cilantro, and cabbage, which was served in a homemade squash bowl, said McElhaney. Coats’ and Lundquist’s dessert was apple slices soaked in a sweet vinegar glaze, topped with honey.

“We did have success with the Farmer’s Market, however, last time we held it on a Thursday, and this time a Wednesday,” said McElhaney. “We had more people turn out for the first event on Sep. 6 than the Oct. 24 event.”

Mason Dining’s next major event will be the grand opening of University Hall on Nov. 8 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. to highlight Einstein Bros. Bagels, Panda Express, and UPS, according to Daliana Gandarillas, Mason Dining’s marketing coordinator. Einstein Bros. Bagels will open Monday, Oct. 29.

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