OSWEGO — SUNY Oswego’s recent Smart Neighbors Project to promote the Oswego-Fulton farmers’ markets has already borne fruit, as student photographers, poets, business people, filmmakers and others await the markets’ reopening on May 24 in Oswego and May 26 in Fulton.
Students in 11 classes across numerous disciplines learned last fall what it’s like to work on a real campaign, said Leigh Wilson, founder and coordinator of Smart Neighbors and director of the college’s Interdisciplinary Programs and Activities Center.
“Sometimes it’s hard to know what you know until you apply it,” Wilson said. “The students involved in the Smart Neighbors Project often talked about the ways they were able to apply the skills they’d learned in their majors to promote the farmers’ market, and in doing so, realized how much more they had actually learned in college than they’d thought, from writing and research skills to critical thinking skills to creative solution-finding.”
Students from ceramics, screenwriting, directing for cinema, creative writing, marketing management, digital photography, graphic design, screen-printing, literary citizenship, experimental filmmaking and typography classes participated in the promotional efforts.
These activities also produced student work promoting businesses in the Greater Oswego and Fulton Chamber of Commerce, as well as the chamber itself.
“From the start, they were all wonderful to work with,” said Katie Toomey, the chamber’s executive director. “The chamber itself has a new logo, and one of the Smart Neighbors students inspired it, with support from the chamber’s Advisory Council and CenterState CEO communications team. It was very fun to pitch the idea to them.”
Toomey recalled her own early days in the workforce.
“I was in public relations and corporate communications prior to my current role,” she said. “I was starting out, fresh out of school and being asked to think in a very different way — with no parameters or assignments. It was fun to watch the college students’ wheels spin as they came to grips with it and created their projects from scratch.”
The farmers’ market campaign follows Smart Neighbors’ efforts in 2016-17 on behalf of Man in the Moon Candies and a successful pilot project the year prior to that with River’s End Bookstore.
“What I find most gratifying about the Smart Neighbors Project is the emphasis we place on what it means for students to give back to the places they call home,” Wilson said. “The city of Oswego is home to them for four years — those four years matter. I hope, and believe, that students from this project will take to their future hometowns the notion that they should give back to their community, give back not just in terms of money but also in terms of their talents and their time. As our Smart Neighbors motto this year goes: ‘We Grow Together.'”
Sara Broadwell, the chamber’s member engagement coordinator and new manager of the Oswego-Fulton farmers’ markets, said SUNY Oswego participation is always welcome.
“We are a strong partner with SUNY,” Broadwell said. “There’s a strong tie. SUNY Oswego and our chamber collaborate closely through the Office of Business and Community Relations. We share space in the Business Resource Center, where we’re able to pool resources, space and work on projects together.”
Broadwell says plans for this year’s markets include entertainment at both venues: Oswego’s on West First Street and Fulton’s new site on South First Street behind City Hall.
Additionally, there will be cookoffs with local restaurants; some farmers will offer fixed-price CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes, prefilled and ready for pick-up; raffles; and theme nights.
Toomey said the college students’ project was timed beautifully with the chamber’s own move to step up promotion of the markets.
“Their recommendations were on a par with changes that were already underway,” Toomey said. “It provided some validation for us, and some new ideas. It was wonderful to see what an unbiased, fresh set of eyes came up with.”
For more information on SUNY Oswego’s Smart Neighbors Project, visit http://digitaloz.oswego.edu.