Mac Farmstand: An Interview with Promotions Coordinator Rahi Turab
At Pop the Bubble, sometimes we’re conflicted. Hamilton is a great place to explore with all its waterfalls, galleries, and restaurants, but sometimes you just want to kick it on campus (especially now that the Engineering Technology Building is a buzzing hotspot for PokemonGo players). While you can’t do absolutely everything you can do in the city on campus, Mac Farmstand, an MSU service dedicated to bringing fresh local produce to campus is making eating healthy, sustainably, and locally a little easier for students. We were able to track down (it wasn’t hard, he’s my housemate!) the Promotions Coordinator, Rahi Turab, to learn a bit more about this amazing service.
1. Can you tell us a little bit more about this service? Why is Farmstand an important service for Mac students?
Rahi Turab: Mac Farmstand is a student-run farmers market that operates from June to October, and aims to give students, faculty and staff access to fresh, local produce. Farmstand is an important service to students because it makes buying local fruits and vegetables extremely convenient. The fact that we’re in the Student Centre means anyone can buy local without having to leave campus or go too far out of their way. There’s also the added bonus that someone could come in not specifically intending to support local food, but the convenience factor might encourage them to try it out anyways. It’s also important to remember that when you buy something from the Farmstand, you are directly supporting the local farms where we get the produce, and reducing the environmental impact that comes with the long distance shipping of produce.
2. Where do you get your local produce from?
RT: All of our produce comes from farms across Ontario. You can find out more about specific farms at https://www.msumcmaster.ca/services-directory/15-mac-farmstand/our-farms
3. So you’re the Promotions Coordinator of Mac Farmstand as well as a Customer Service Representative (CSR). How did you hear about this position and how do you like it so far?
RT: I actually found out about both of these positions on the Farmstand Facebook page!
I’m in quite a unique position as the promotions coordinator and a CSR. I get to post on our social media outlets and promote our service, while also meeting people face to face at the stand and getting a hands on look at day to day operations. I would definitely say being a CSR has made my promotions job easier and more intuitive.
4. Does this service operate during the school year as well and do you take volunteers?
RT: Yes! We operate all the way to October and are always looking for volunteers. Volunteers typically help out our customers service reps at the stand, in addition to assisting with our events. We also offer a pretty unique perk in that volunteers and CSRs get half off produce!
For the next few questions, we were able to ask a couple more voices on the Farmstand team just to see what everyone’s favourite aspects of being part of the service was.
5. What has been your favourite/most rewarding part of being a part of Farmstand?
Rahi Turab: I would have to say my favourite part of being involved with Farmstand is seeing all the smiling faces of customers at the stand and learning about just how excited they are to buy local food. A lot of people are surprised that we’re located in the Student Centre, and happy that they can buy their produce more conveniently as they’re leaving work or class.
Adam Chiaravalle (Education & Advocacy Coordinator): It is so rewarding to be able sit down to a meal and say to yourself I made this meal. More over by your meal being cooked from scratch local ingredients means that you actually made an impact on this world. Like honestly YOU on a personal level can positively combat climate change. Energy and carbon is used when you buy packaged and processed foods, so when you cook local meals your carbon footprint is being reduced. Also, Farmers are coming under ever more pressure to sell their land for development, as farming is not a lucrative business. It is important for Ontario farmers to be stay in business because there is thousands of acres Green belt land in Ontario and the issue of impinging food security reminds us that if we are to have food supplies in the future we need these farmers to keep farming the land. Therefore, by buying local you are doing your part to ensure that Ontario farmers can prosper
Victoria Radauskas (Customer Service Rep): Getting to talk to people about food and cooking all the time. Corresponding bad side: constantly being surrounded by delicious food that makes you hungry.
6. What’s your go-to Farmstand purchase?
RT: I would like to say I buy something like Swiss chard or parsnips, but honestly I wouldn’t know what to do with those so my usual go-to purchase is a chocolate chip cookie from De La Terre bakery.
VR: The De La Terre bread loaves. They make delicious sandwiches!
7. What is one tip you have for students that want to eat healthier, more sustainably, and more locally?
RT: I guess the most important thing is that you do your research and see what kinds of resources are around you. Mac Farmstand is definitely a resource on campus but I would encourage you to explore Hamilton and see what you can find. If you need more guidance, come by the Farmstand and we can hook you up with a great map for local eating around Hamilton!
AC: In a world of excess and indulgence the simple things mean more. We as a species need to start living simply not only because the planet needs it. I love the fact that the people of Mac Farmstand can spend an afternoon picking apples and than spend the rest of the day talking about and eating those apples! There is something that is unexplainable about having a conversation with some about a great recipe or having friends over for a meal. The experience is something that lasts with you not only the day after but for years as well.
VR: Start with simple additions to your meals if you are trying to incorporate more nutritious foods into your diet. Don’t jump right in with eggplant parmesan – try making a simple baked potato or steaming some fresh asparagus first! Use the local food availability chart provided by Foodland Ontario to find out when your favourite fruits and vegetables will be available locally, and purchase them fresh from Farmstand or your closest grocery store that stocks local food. If you don’t know how to prepare a specific vegetable, ask one of the Farmstand employees and we can provide you with some simple recipes and cooking tips!
So there you have it! You can eat locally and sustainably without ever leaving campus. There shouldn’t be any excuses to not support local farmers now! Also, I wanted to extend a big thank you to Rahi for taking the time to answer all of these questions and to Preethi for organizing all the responses from the other Farmstand members!
You should also check their Facebook: Mac Farmstand