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Everyday Heroes: Erin Faircloth and Naveen Bateman

Farmers Market Friends

A welcome sign sits between two tables covered by tents where University of Georgia students stop to check out fresh, local produce for sale outside the Tate Student Center. Erin Faircloth and Naveen Bateman greet students with warm smiles as they stand behind the tables, which are covered in vegetables like rainbow chard and beets, along with seasonal bouquets and spiced apple cider.

Faircloth and Bateman are co-presidents of Farmers Market Friends, a UGA club that partners with Athens farmers to provide seasonal produce to students each week.

“The main goal in this is just to give back to the community and an awareness that as students here, Athens really graciously hosts us, and we often overlook the local community here and a lot of the struggles that they go through,” Faircloth said.

Credit: Elizabeth Rymarev

Credit: Elizabeth Rymarev

This campus initiative was started by then-UGA students Abraham Lebos and Reese MacMillan. They committed in summer 2020 to volunteer at the Athens Farmers Market through the Farm Rx program, which fights food insecurity with the vision of “food as real medicine,” and they decided to bring that mission to campus.

Lebos and MacMillan shared a common interest in extending a hand to the community after realizing there wasn’t much advocacy for local farmers from student clubs. Their mission was to reduce food insecurity and increase access to fresh food for students living on campus who do not have access to cars or grocery stores. Their solution: bringing produce to them.

When MacMillan and Lebos graduated, the next generation of Farmers Market Friends led the effort. Faircloth, a fifth-year painting and drawing major from Savannah, Georgia, and Bateman, a first-year graduate student from Washington, D.C. pursuing a master’s in public health with a focus in epidemiology, were involved since its inception.

Faricloth said the club volunteers at the farmers market on Saturdays. Then, they pick up the produce around 6 a.m. Wednesday from Collective Harvest, an Athens organization that connects small-scale farmers to the community, and they run the campus market from 12:30-3 p.m.

UGA’s Office of Sustainability includes the club’s expenses in the “green fee” paid by UGA students’ tuition. Faircloth receives a list of the produce available that week and chooses which ones they think would work well for students. Collective Harvest creates boxes for them to pick up and bring to campus, where the food is then neatly staged at the campus market with prices listed on mini chalkboards.

“My favorite part is the interactions that I have, with my other volunteers or with the people that we’re selling the produce to, it’s just nice to have that as a part of my day,” Lebos said.

Prices are set at what the items were purchased for, and all proceeds go to the Farm Rx program. From March to December 2021, Farmers Market Friends donated $4,724.38 to Farm Rx. Leftover produce is donated to Fresh Express, a free campus food pantry set up by the UGA Student Government Association.

The club’s future depends on finding people who are also passionate about the community and locally grown produce and desire to help bridge the gap in food insecurity.

“I feel like having someone that understands it’s not just for us to come out and sell produce to the students and have a fun time,” Faircloth said. “There’s an ending goal: to give back to the community here.”

HOW TO HELP

For more information, please visit https://sustainability.uga.edu/community-engagement/farm-to-campus-markets/.

Follow Farmers Market Friends on Instagram at @fmf_uga.


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead.

We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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