Healthy growth: Student manager nurtures thriving campus farmers market

If you’ve been on campus on a Thursday, you probably know about the SUNY New Paltz Farmers Market, where local vendors share a bounty including fruits and veggies, fresh baked goods, local honey and handmade jewelry.

You may not know that the market comes together every week thanks primarily to the efforts of student volunteers – and no one has done more to help it grow in 2017 than Market Manager Billie Golan ’18 (Contract – Environmental Studies).

Golan was born in Israel and raised on Long Island. She developed an interest in environmental activism in high school, and at New Paltz she’s taken advantage of every opportunity to deepen her engagement.

“It started casually, but I wanted to get more into leadership, so I started setting up meetings and speaking at events,” Golan said. “I really just went for everything.”

The list of clubs and activities Golan has been a part of is exhaustive: Students for Sustainable Agriculture, New Paltz Climate Action Coalition, Sustainability Committee, Campus Auxiliary Services, Phillies Bridge Farm Project, Environmental Task Force, Student Senate and New York Students Rising, among others.

Through these activities, Golan has become a valued resource for sustainability advocates in the Hudson Valley, at the center of a growing network of students, faculty, staff and community members interested in these issues.

“New Paltz is an essential place for this work to be done,” Golan said. “I’ve been able to gather a lot of contacts in the area, and bridge gaps between all the groups I’m involved in, gathering and sharing ideas. I love finding new ways to have an impact, and I love being involved in the community.”

As a central hub for a range of different environmental stakeholders, Golan is a natural farmers market manager. The job requires organization, communication with lots of different parties on and off campus, and most importantly, the drive to keep bringing it together each week.

“It’s awesome working with Billie – she really helps promote us, and she’s knowledgeable about sustainable farming and eating right,” said Jennifer Duarte, co-owner of Damn Good Honey Farm.

Duarte is a veteran of markets around New Paltz, but says there’s something different about working on campus, where she’s able to introduce a younger audience to her business and values.

“At the campus market, you can show the students what they could become – that they can be successful and also live a more natural, healthier lifestyle,” she said.

Other vendors see the campus market as a way into future opportunities. New Paltz student Joseph Davis ’19 (Digital Media Production, Psychology) launched his business, Joe’s Java Jive, at the market this fall.

“I came to the market and realized there was no coffee, so I talked to Billie and she invited me to come as soon as I could get something set up,” Davis said. “This is my dream business, and I’m going to get it started right here at New Paltz.”

Whether inviting experienced food producers to talk with students about sustainability and wellness, or helping newcomers establish themselves and their businesses, the SUNY New Paltz Farmers Market continues to grow and provide for the campus community under Golan’s guidance.

It’s hard work, but there are perks to being the first one to market every Thursday morning. Golan has first dibs on just about everything for sale, and the inside info about what’s really good.

“Damn Good Honey Farms makes this great beeswax soap that smells amazing,” she said. “I pick some up every time I run out.”

Learn more about the SUNY New Paltz Farmers Market online, or drop by and see what’s in store, every Thursday that campus is in session, outside (when weather permits) or inside the Lecture Center, from 10:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.