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Students Take on Sense of Ownership in Farmers Market

The C of O farmers market provides a new way to buy meats and vegetables in the Branson area.
POINT LOOKOUT, Mo. -- A new way to buy produce and meats in the Branson, Mo. area also gives students a sense of ownership. 

College of the Ozarks opened a farmers market in the late spring of 2013. Now more than 400 visitors visit the market every week, on average.

Shikara Walsh, who works in the campus garden, took a turn at the cashier's stand on a recent Friday morning. Half an hour into the day, the market bustled with more than 80 visitors.

"People really like C of O," Walsh said. "They like the fact that the students make everything. I really think that's why this has been so popular."

The garden, dairy and meat operations at the school are not organic, but they are USDA inspected and have provided food for the school's Keeter Center in the past. The success of the new market was a pleasant surprise to school administrators like Dr. Marvin Schoenecke.

"It's the whole 'know your farmer' concept, buy local," he said. "It's not just something that some farmer somewhere did."

According to USDA data, most grocery store produce travels more than 1,500 mi. to the shelf. For most farmers' markets the number is significantly less--60 mi. But the C of O market takes buying local to a new level, as all of the produce, meat and dairy products are grown and harvested 100-200 yds. from the market.

"You know that they're real fresh," said one customer, David Davidson. "My wife, she just loves to come out here."

Schoenecke said he enjoyed watching the students work with the vegetables and develop a sense of ownership.

"Talk to the students," he said. "They have pride in what they do."

Walsh, a senior, said she also enjoyed providing visitors with a behind-the-scenes look at the source of their dinner.

"People have gotten to the point where they just go to the grocery store and they don't know where food comes from," she said. "They don't realize that someone has to grow it and take care of it."

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