Dr. Kimberly Kasper, assistant professor of anthropology, was recently interviewed by Stacey Greenberg ‘94 for Edible Memphis about the Overton Park Community Farmers Market. The market, which is overseen by Rhodes College and the Overton Park Conservancy, began in 2012 as part of an effort to address the issues of food access and insecurity in the surrounding community. Originally organized by Kasper and students working in Rhodes’ community garden, the market has grown from a few tables set up in the Barret Library Cloister to more than 20 local vendors selling not just vegetables, but also meat, ice cream, fresh-baked breads, and even handmade crafts in Overton Park’s East Parkway Pavilion. Working with the Conservancy, Bring It Food Hub, and Grow Memphis, Kasper was able to secure a $100,000 USDA grant to help, among other things, further the goal of increasing access to fresh produce for community residents and build production capacity and sustainability of area farms and community gardens.
Student participation is still central to the success of the market. During the spring and fall semesters two Food Security Fellows work with the vendors, help recruit other students, and handle many of the logistics involved with the market. In addition, they conduct ethnographic studies at the market and in the community, gathering information to guide future initiatives. This summer’s fellow is environmental studies major Anya McKay ’18, who also conducted ethnographic research during the spring. In the Edible Memphis article Kasper says of the students, “They try to understand what’s going on. It’s a really great facet — learning about the community while being embedded in it.”