Fast Company Features Sappi's Ideas that Matter Grant Program in an Article on MICA's Design Collaboration with Real Food Farm

A Mobile Farmers Market, Created By Design Students
Aug 7, 2013 3:15 PM ET
Campaign: Ideas that Matter

A Mobile Farmers Market, Created By Design Students

Ariel Schwartz, Fast Company

August 7, 2013

Connecting a Baltimore food desert with a nearby farm takes only a truck, but this specially designed food transport vehicle makes the process a lot easier.

Food deserts--places where fresh and nutritious food is difficult to access--are sprinkled across the U.S. In response, a number of mobile farmers markets have popped up, where local farms and vendors bring their wares to community hubs.

Generally, these mobile markets are created by farmers, grocery store owners, and activists. But in Maryland, the Center for Design Practice (CDP) at the Maryland Institute College of Art took on the challenge of creating a mobile farmers market for Real Food Farm, an urban farm in Baltimore. So what does a mobile market look like when designers are involved?

The mobile market project, one of the winners of Sappi Fine Paper North America’s annual Ideas That Matter grants, was born out of students’ work in figuring out how to connect the residents of Clifton Park (a neighborhood in Baltimore) to nearby Real Food Farm. "The Center for Design Practice is a multidisciplinary studio focused on engaging students and partners in project-based learning, specifically, where results can make a positive impact on society. Real Food Farm was one of those projects," explains Mike Weikert, the director of the CDP. "We don’t engage with organizations to produce predefined outcomes. We facilitate a process and frame these projects in larger terms like how to connect farm to community."

In this case, the truck idea emerged from CDP students’ experience spending a month working at Real Food Farm. Food trucks are already popular in Baltimore, and the city has a history of hosting Arabbers, or street merchants who sell produce from horse-drawn carts.The Real Food Farm mobile farmers market is a cross between the two--and an iconic moving billboard for the farm.

Some of the original design elements have stuck. A pullout drawer system (similar to what’s used by contractors when they need to pull things out of a truck bed) lets staff organize produce on the road. An awning pulls out and attaches to the truck, and a hook system lets staffers attach baskets on the side of the vehicle. An interchangeable panel system features chalkboards, dry erase boards, and a map of the truck’s route.

Others haven’t worked out so well. CDP students didn’t think to install a refrigeration system, however; that had to be added after the fact. They also put a side window for transactions in the original design, but it was never used--instead, workers display all their wares off the back of the truck and handle customers from there.

To read the full article, check out Sappi's "In the News" page for a link or visit Fast Company to read the story on their website.

Good design inspires people to take action, great ideas change the world. To learn more about Sappi's annual grant program and to watch inspiring videos of past projects, visit our website on the Ideas that Matter program.