Twelve for ’12 (continued)

Fruits of her labor. Adrien Schless-Meier examined the role of race and class in shaping Portland’s farmers markets. Photo by Matt D'Annunzio

Adrien Schless-Meier sociology

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Adviser: Kjersten Whittington [sociology 2007–]

Thesis: Open and Accessible to All?: Organizational Color-Blindness in the Portland Farmers Market

What it’s about: How does the Portland Farmers Market tackle issues of race and class inequity, both in regard to the organization’s vendor pool and consumer base? 

What it’s really about: The problems with giving a white face to a “progressive” institution.

When I got to Reed I was: Brimming with excitement and overwhelmed by such a strange and magical place.

Influential book: I read Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) in Spanish and loved it so much that I immediately read it again in English. I wanted to be in that world as long as I could.

Favorite spot: On the back of the physics building is a ledge with a couch and a gorgeous view of the Canyon.

Random thoughts: My high school guidance counselor told me about Reed and it became the light at the end of my tunnel. The first time I visited Reed with my parents, we drove into Eliot Circle, the cherry trees were in bloom, and I started sobbing. My mother said, “Is everything okay?” and I said, “It’s perfect. It’s beautiful here. It’s everything I thought college should look like.” She’s like: “Okay, I guess we know where you’re going.” I spent so much time thinking about what Reed would be like. When it materialized in front of me, it was more magical than I ever thought it could be.

Cool stuff I did: Learned to make cheese and roast my own coffee. Hung out with people like Billy Collins, Common, Parvez Sharma, Hari Kondabolu, Shira Tarrant, and Inga Muscio. Joined my first athletic team, the Reed crew.

How Reed changed me: As someone with strong opinions and a great desire to share them, I have often gained the most insight here when I chose to be silent.

Scholarships, awards, financial aid: Having worked for the Gray Fund and received the Betty Gray Scholarship, the late Betty Gray is akin to my Reed guardian angel.

What’s next: I will be working with AmeriCorps to promote farm-to-school education for K-12. Eventually I plan to get my master’s in public health.

Thesis expanded:

I was working at a farmers market in northeast Portland and a black man approached and asked, “Were any black people invited to this event?” While no one was specifically invited to the event, that didn’t uncover the whole picture. Regardless of the neighborhood demographics of any market, the clientele is mostly white. I did a case study of the Portland Farmers Market Organization, which runs 7 of the 42 Portland markets, and found reluctance to own up to any complicity in preventing people of color or with low incomes from coming to the markets. Adopting a colorblind stance, they left it to abstract, outside forces to ensure that people of color would come. A lot of dynamic processes shape who ends up participating in a market, but you need to address unequal access as it pertains to race and class.

VIDEO: Adrien Schless-Meier

Food for Thought. Adrien Schless-Meier ’12 talks about the environmental, social and political factors that shape the food landscape and how they intersect at Portland farmers markets.