our program

BMSP is a student-run, campus-based food distribution program connecting the Brown community with regional producers through affordable weekly shares of fresh, local, and sustainable produce, bread, eggs, dairy and meat.

We are the first college campus USDA-recognized Food Hub, listed here in their Local Food Directory.

Click the video below to learn more about our program!  


Mission

Promote regional farm security. We are committed to supporting small-scale local farmers
in Rhode Island and Massachusetts who manage diversified farms with methods that demonstrate a respect for the environment, consumers, and farmers alike. Market Shares provides an alternative to the conventional industrial agro-food system.

Provide equitable access to sustainably-produced food. We believe all individuals should have equal access to fresh, local, sustainable food. By removing transportation barriers, our program provides access to any member of the Brown community. Our internally-funded Subsidized Program allows low-income faculty, staff, and graduate students to participate at a lower cost, further breaking down obstacles to access.

Foster on-campus engagement and activism. We offer Brown students, faculty, and staff the chance to support local agriculture and to learn about farming and seasonal produce. In this sense, Market Shares creates the opportunity for them to make a political statement through the purchase of their food. Along with other on-campus initiatives as well academic courses, our program fosters a community of active and engaged eaters on Brown’s campus.

“Food is a big deal. We vote with our dollars. I vote for farmers.”

How it works

The Brown Market Shares Program is a campus-based food distribution program, adapted from the Community Supported Agriculture model. In a traditional CSA, shareholders pay a farmer in the winter for a portion of their summer and fall harvest which they later receive on a weekly basis.

Market Shares also accepts payments in advance of the distribution season, and shareholders come to pick up their share each week. One of the things that makes our program unique, however, is that we source our produce and food products from multiple farms instead of just one (5-10 farms depending on the season, all within a 20-mile radius of Brown’s campus). We work primarily with highly sustainable farmers, some of whom are completely chemical-free. Our model allows shareholders to support numerous farms through their membership, reducing competition by more widely distributing consumers' purchasing powers. Additionally, it means our shareholders receive a greater variety of produce year round than they would in other CSAs. Another unique feature of Market Shares is that we operate in three separate seasons annually: Fall (mid-September through early December), Spring (early February through late April), and Summer (mid-June through mid-August). Our seasons are designed around the academic year, and are typically 10-11 weeks in length.

The produce in the weekly share varies according to the season. The fall brings heartier items such as peppers and eggplants, as well as the season’s first apples and winter squash. In the spring, shares are comprised of hearty root vegetables and tubers, including parsnips, turnips, potatoes, and onions, as well as some delicious winter greens. In the summer, shareholders receive many greens, tomatoes, stone fruits, and squash. Shareholders can also purchase supplementary shares in addition to produce, including bread, eggs, dairy (yogurt, milk, cheese) and/or meat from local producers. For more info on the contents of our shares, check out our FAQ.

Shareholders receive an e-mail at the start of each week detailing what produce items and quantities will be in their weekly share. In this newsletter, we provide information about how to prepare and store some of these less familiar items. Our shareholders report each season that the new, surprising vegetables are the most exciting! When shareholders arrive at distribution, coordinators check them in, and they fill their bags themselves – everyone receives the same share of produce. We take great pride in the vibrant community that develops each season during Market Day, as coordinators, volunteers, and shareholders interact and learn from each other.

Check out this photo essay by Tom Sullivan (Brown '15) about our program for some great images that capture these facets of our program.

"It’s a way to help local farmers that's within my budget, and forces me to learn new recipes and experiment with vegetables I've never seen before."

Impact

From Fall 2011 through Fall 2013, we filled 22,050 bags of groceries, 6,618 of which were offered at a discounted price. To make this possible, shareholders spent $532,140. We invested 91% of that (or $486,770) directly into the local food economy. By this estimate, our impact on the Rhode Island food system for those two years alone is worth $1,265,600.*

In that time, we purchased food directly from 13 different farms, and connected to 12 others through Farm Fresh Rhode Island. We got this food to our shareholders during more than 1,630 hours of volunteer-run Market Days, which is the equivalent of about one full month.

*Each dollar earned has a significant community-wide impact. Spending within a local food system means dollars are recycling through the community more times than if they were invested in far away companies. The Crossroads Resources Center estimates that local food spending in agricultural communities has 2.6 times the impact of the original purchase.

“[BMSP is] access to fresh produce, supportive to local farmers, connection to the Rhode Island community and a community at Brown that is passionate about these things.”

Our Book: "running the brown market shares program"

For much more information about our program, how it works, our impact and accomplishments, please check out the book that we wrote below. Feel free to email us with any additional questions at info@brownmarketshares.com. We hope you enjoy it!