Davy Crockett and Susanna Dickinson had Butler Plaza teeming with excitement. Eager students stopped to snap pictures and even … cuddle. Wait, cuddle? The Texas historical figures weren’t really there, of course, but an irresistible pair of one-week-old baby goats with their namesake was.
More than three decades after goat farm owners LeeAnne and Tim Carlson fell in love as UH students, they found themselves back on campus with a few of their kids—Davy and Susanna are the youngest of their 37 goats, all with Texas names. The Carlson’s operate Swede Farm, a vendor at the new bi-weekly UH farmers market. In addition to selling a variety of goat cheese, milk and yogurt at the market, the Carlsons educate students about the importance of supporting local farmers.
“Buying local is better for the environment and keeps money in the local economy,” said LeeAnne. “It’s an opportunity to make a connection with the farmer and really understand where your food comes from.”
The UH Farmers Market was launched last fall by UH Dining Services and the Office of Sustainability. The market moves to different locations around campus. The lineup includes plenty of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables, baked goods, all-natural soaps, assorted honey, art, jewelry and even handcrafted, recycled stationery. On the day of our visit, Eureka Acres Urban Farm was offering rainbow carrots, homemade pickles and marmalade made from oranges grown in owner Joseph Stark’s backyard.
“As a society, we’ve been disconnected from our food for some time,” he said. “There’s a new generation looking to have authentic connections.”
Stark builds and maintains vegetable gardens at homes in his north Houston neighborhood. The homeowners get a share of the produce, while he takes the rest to market.
“Health conscious people are focusing more on organic and local produce,” said Stark.
For many students, college is the first time they are making their own food choices. Lauren Ross, UH Dining director of wellness and sustainability, wants to make sure they have plenty of fresh options on campus, a reason why the market accepts Cougar Cash.
“One of the most important things we can do is to help students connect more with their food,” she said. “We want them to think about what they’re eating, where it comes from and what it will do for their overall health.”