Carl Paladino really wants you to try his sorbet. When AU students are hurrying to make their next class on Wednesday afternoons, Paladino, vice president of distribution at Micha’s Sorbet, calls out to anyone and everyone to try a free sample. To a texting passerby, Paladino exclaims, “You know what would go good with that phone? A free sample! Come and get your free sample of sorbet!”
Micha’s Sorbet is one of three vendors who participate in the weekly AU Farmers Market. Located on the quad in front of the Ward Circle building, the small but bountiful farmers market sets up stands of freshly-baked breads from Upper Crust Bakery, sweet sorbet from Micha’s and just-been-picked fruits and vegetables from Agora Farms every Wednesday.
Eco-Sense initiated the farmers market in March 2009, according to Amy Farr, health promotion manager of AU’s Office of Human Resources. When Eco-Sense found out that AU’s faculty and staff wellness program, A Healthy U, was interested in getting involved, the two programs joined forces.
“The first session [of the market] offered was a trial session,” Farr said. “The entire community was all very supportive to have fresh and local produce so easily accessible.”
The farmers market was made a permanent fixture in May 2009, and A Healthy U has since become the primary organizer.
“Since Eco-Sense is a student organization, not many members were around that summer,” Farr said. “So we took the farmers market under our wings.”
Eco-Sense chose the initial vendors for the trial session in March, and since then, the farmers market has hosted two primary vendors — Agora Farms and Upper Crust Bakery. A third vendor, Micha’s Sorbet, was added at the end of this summer to add a sweet treat to the mix.
“[We] thought it might be nice to have a healthier dessert option during the warmer months,” Farr said.
Based in Baltimore, Micha’s Sorbet offers over 80 flavors of fat-free, dairy-free sorbet.
“It’s also got a lot of love in it,” Paladino said with a smile.
At the farmers market, only several of the delicious flavors are sampled, including mango, lemon, blackberry and mixed berry blast. Along with free samples, one has the choice of three sizes: live for $4, laugh for $6 and love for $12.
Paladino said that more flavors would be introduced to the stand at AU in the coming months, such as “beet down” (beet and banana), strawberry jalapeño, and sweet potato around Thanksgiving. The sorbet stand also vends at other farmers markets in Reston and Gainesville, Va., in Annapolis, Md. and at Eastern Market on Capitol Hill. Come fall, Micha’s Sorbet will set up a stand at University of Maryland and George Mason University’s own campus farmers markets.
Almost all of the produce sold at the other two stands is pesticide free or pesticide reduced, according to Dan Donahue of Agora Farms, one of the market’s coordinators. Spraying pesticides is not so much a health or “green” concern as it is an economic issue among farmers today, Donahue added.
“No one wants to spray [pesticides],” he said. “It’s too expensive.”
Agora Farms offers an abundant supply of Amish, Mennonite and English products, like fresh peaches, Honeycrisp apples, farm-fresh eggs, butter, cheese, corn, melon, onions, four types of squash and six kinds of potatoes. Agora also sells Fresh Off The Roast coffee via the Qualia Coffee shop in Petworth. Upper Crust Bakery, based in Silver Spring, sells a variety of freshly baked breads including challah, baguettes and various sourdoughs and focaccias. Numerous jams and cookies are also big sellers.
Farr also said that A Healthy U had discussions with the vendors about allowing the use of EagleBucks, but no conclusions have been reached at this point.
The AU Farmers Market is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday on campus until November.