As flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables bloom this summer, so do opportunities to connect with fellow students and growers through food. On Friday, June 21, the Outback Farm at Western Washington University is hosting a free farmers market from 12 to 2 p.m.
“The Outback Farm is a place where Western students grow food for other students,” said Farm Manager Terri Kempton. “We’re focused on food justice, which means distributing our eggs, honey, fruit, herbs and vegetables across campus.”
Miracle Food Network, a nonprofit in Whatcom County that aims to fight food waste and insecurity, will be providing non-perishables to complement the Outback’s spread of products. Featured produce includes leafy greens such as kale, bok choy and cabbage leaves. Eggs will also be available thanks to the Outback’s chickens. Onions and beets could appear on the menu, said student and Engagement Coordinator Reign Head.
Head joined the Outback’s team in December after working in agriculture in Wenatchee since 2019. They found comfort in the city through the farm, which is tucked away at the south end of Western’s campus.
“The whole idea of food scarcity and insecurity is super important to my heart after growing up food insecure,” Head said. “It’s nice to be a part of the Outback. That’s why we grow the food, to distribute it.”
Around 41% of college students nationwide face food insecurity. In fall of 2022, Western partnered with the Washington Student Achievement Council to survey students and found that Washington students facing food insecurity nearly mirrored the national count at 38%. The following winter, University Residences restarted the Swipe Out Hunger program, which allows students to donate their dining hall meals to those in need.
Head oversees both the community garden and events hosted at the Outback, and has witnessed a growing interest in both. They feel that sometimes students feel guilty for utilizing free resources. When their June farmers market concluded, the Outback took leftovers to the Fairhaven College and Viking Union free food pantries.
“Take what you need, and I think that's really hard for college students,” Head said. “It's about advocating for yourself and making sure that you get the resources you need.”
For disability accommodation questions, students are encouraged to reach out to Head via the Outback’s Instagram. Drive-up options are also available.
The Outback will be hosting more free farmers markets on Aug. 21 and Sept. 21. These will culminate in the fall harvest jubilee in October, where students are welcome to enjoy live music, food trucks and games.
Students who are interested in getting involved in the Outback are welcome to visit any time, as long as they close the gates behind them to prevent wildlife from getting in. There are also opportunities to volunteer at their work parties every Wednesday this summer. Students can sign up for community garden plots by reaching out to Head.
The Outback hopes that these events will spread awareness, not only of the farm’s presence on campus, but of all campus resources for students who are struggling with food insecurity.
Meghan Fenwick is a senior at Western Washington University and a campus reporter for The Front. She is majoring in environmental journalism.
You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.