Cultivating Community With Miami Students

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With school starting in 10 days, Oxford will once again, be thriving with a new group of enthusiastic young adults. These days, young folks are eager to be involved with the community, educating themselves and others on the positive effects of farmers markets and local co-ops. With each new Miami student that attends our Oxford Farmers Market, they will tell at least 1 friend. The experience they have at the market will surely be very influential in, bringing a sense of togetherness, enlightenment, and cultivate community. Just take Miami student, Leland Joyce, for example. His essay, expressing the differences between shopping at Wal-Mart and the Oxford Farmers Market, clearly shows how we can cultivate community with Miami students. Even though most students are in Oxford for a short period of time, we can create, educate, and spread the meaning of community to the world through the voices of our future.

Please take a moment to read Leland's essay:

Wal-Mart vs. Oxford Farmer’s Market: The Choice is Yours
Essay by Leland Joyce

Wal-Mart is America’s best friend. Why? Because it sells a large range of goods at unbeatably low prices. Hence their slogan, “Save money. Live better. Wal-Mart.” Even as I pull up their website, I notice that their goods range from office supplies and electronics, too Halloween and pet supplies. This would lead one to believe that every person in the U.S. should shop there. That, however, is not the case. More and more people have begun purchasing locally grown foods that are assured to be fresh. My own family in Cincinnati is the same way. My mother refuses to buy fruits and vegetables from Kroger, choosing instead to shop at a local market called Pipkin’s, which markets itself as selling high quality fruits and vegetables. Enter: the Oxford Farmer’s Market. The OFM creates an environment where one can go to mingle with locals, but at the same time sample and purchase an amazing array of local goods. The welcoming nature of the Oxford Farmer’s Market creates a more friendly and communal shopping experience, where as Wal-Mart creates a closed and lonely shopping experience.
The first place I went was Wal-Mart, which I visited on Thursday, October 20th at 4:30 P.M. I was able to get to Wal-Mart through a friend with a car because he also had to pick up a few things. Wal-Mart is exceedingly inconvenient for students to shop at because it is at least a five minute drive from campus. Therefore, the only students (and Oxford locals as well) who actually shop at Wal-Mart are people with access to cars, or those willing to take a bus. When I first walk into Wal-Mart, the first thing I notice is the strong smell of Subway resonating in the doorway (there’s one right next to the door). The smell seems resonate through most of the store. I also notice that they are trying very hard to portray a feel of Autumn, with lots of pumpkins and Halloween candy near the entrance way. With my sight, I notice how bright the store is, not unlike the picture on the front of our syllabus. The size of the store is also overwhelming. It actually took me five minutes of walking around aimlessly until I figured out where I needed to go to find what I was looking for. It did not help that the signs to direct people to different sections of the store were challenging to read.
I was only there for a few things, one of which were the spheres that emit a pleasant smell that people put in their shoes to make them smell better. I could not, however, find these. Not only could I not find them, I also could not find anyone to help me find them. In fact, I did not see a single employee helping a customer throughout the store. I felt as if I was walking through a forest without a compass. I knew what I wanted but had no idea where to look. The shoppers in Wal-Mart all looked gloomy, albeit was a miserable day outside. I did not see a single person of a race other than white, and only saw one child accompanied by a parent. If I were to describe my experience in one word, I would say the store was quite wishy-washy.
I visited the Oxford Farmer’s Market on Saturday October 22nd at 10:00 A.M. I was able to walk there because it is only a fifteen minute walk from my dormitory. The location is convenient for locals and students alike, as it is right outside the Bella apartments. As I walk in, the first thing I notice is the music playing, which I first thought was a stereo system. It actually was coming from a live band from Cincinnati (which I later learned from Mr. Slocum). There were many different smells at the market, including a heavy caramel smell near the apple stand, and a pleasant soap smell. The overall feel of the market was very local. Everyone seemed to know each other, almost like a big family gathering that occurred every weekend. The shoppers were friendly and communal with the sellers as well as with each other. There were a lot of families there, including pets and children, who surprisingly seemed to enjoy running around and sampling the goods. I even noticed a couple of teachers, including my Architecture 188 teacher from my freshman year, Tom Dutton. Overall, the people there seemed very happy, quite the opposite of the people I observed at Wal-Mart.
I also got to meet a couple of very nice people. The first was Dave (I think his last name was Powell), who invited me to sample his product, which was a group of spicy spreads. When I tried the first one and noticed how spicy it was, he had a bit of a chuckle, informing me that that was the mildest one. I also got to meet, Larry Slocum, who picked me out as a student as I walked around and took notes. He understood what I was doing, and we talked a little bit about the locality of the market. He even told me that the apple cider that I had purchased contained seven different types of apples and that I will never taste better cider. He wanted me to e-mail my paper to him to post on the OFM website, which was an honor. Last, he gave me a little piece of advice for my paper, which was to put pictures in it, because who wants to read something without pictures?
At the end of the day, there is a choice to be made about how to shop for groceries. On one hand, there is shopping for the experience, to be able to taste your food before you buy it, and discuss the product with the producer. On the other hand, there is shopping for the price, or purchasing the cheapest product on the shelf. It is just another one of many choices we make in life.