Students and local residents said the GW Farmers Market on Kogan Plaza could be a beginning to much-needed improvements in the area’s town-gown relationships.
Senior Josh Singer, who spearheaded the project, called the second market, held last week, successful. As the Farmers Market Association’s slogan, “building community through food,” suggests, organizers of the GW Farmers Market said they are looking to better University-community relations with the monthly bazaar, which brings market goods from District area vendors to campus.
The market was well-attended and made more than $700, which will be donated back to the community. Student organizers and merchants said they had hoped to match the success of the first Farmers Market held Oct. 23.
“Students and neighborhood residents have judged each other in the past,” said Singer, who was recently elected to a seat on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission. “The Farmers Market is designed to enhance the whole community.”
Event organizers said they would like to continue to hold Farmers Markets on a regular basis.
“It gives the community something positive,” said Mikey Akin, a student staff member in the office of Community Relations. “(The Farmers Market) benefits town-gown relations.”
Some residents have been vocal in calling the GW-Foggy Bottom neighborhood relationships strained.
“GW’s relations with the community are nil. They take over our real estate and just don’t quit,” said community leader Dorothy Miller. “They’re more of a commercial organization than a university. (GW President Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg has destroyed this beautiful neighborhood.”
As a member of the ANC, Singer said he is well aware of these issues. He also noted that the Farmers Market was well received at a recent ANC meeting.
“It will definitely strengthen the bond between GW and the community,” he said. “There has never really been much dialogue between students and local residents. Hopefully, this will be a forum to begin one.”
Merchants had tables and tents set up throughout Kogan Plaza to sell an assortment of items, including various crafts, tapestries, jewelry, photographs and candles. The food vendors selling pastries and fresh produce were the most crowded booths at the event.
“I think it’s a very pleasant experience to be here on such a nice day,” said local resident James Holland. “The whole (area) lends itself very nicely (to the event).”
Students said they were pleased to see another market and the alternatives it provides to usual campus venues.
“I was on my way back home when I noticed this Farmers Market and decided to come check it out,” freshman Carly Studer said. “Everything here looks really neat.”
“There’s a wide variety of fruits and vegetables,” freshman Josh Jankot said. “It’s better and cheaper than Safeway or Provisions.”
Merchants said they benefited from the Farmers Market as well.
“This is our second time here, and it seems a little slower today,” said produce vendor Dan Donahue, who also sells his wares at Eastern Market. “There are still some real nice, hungry people here.”
Other merchants echoed Donahue’s sentiment.
“This is really helping business by getting my name out,” said furniture vendor Will Briffa. “People keep asking me if I have stores somewhere.”
Relations between GW and Foggy Bottom residents have been tense, with neighbors issuing various complaints about conduct of local students, University property acquisition and zoning concerns.
“My biggest complaints would be the noise and the trash, but I try to make allowances because I know that the whole experience is a learning process for the students,” community member Rita Champagne said.
“I try to separate what is the students’ fault and what is the University’s fault,” Champagne said. “I don’t mind having the students here. It’s refreshing, and they’re fun.”