Farmers' markets provide fresh produce

Farmers’ markets provide fresh produce.

With spring well under way, bounties of locally grown fresh produce and goods can be found at the Downtown Ypsilanti and Depot Town Farmers’ markets every Tuesday and Saturday through October. The farmers’ markets not only bring fresh produce to our tables, but help support local growers, educate the public and help advocate for healthier lifestyles.

Open on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. – 6 p.m., the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market is run by the non-profit organization Growing Hope, located on Michigan Avenue. They were an integral part in enacting the Cottage Food law, signed by former Governor Granholm in 2010, which allows anyone to produce food goods from home without having to apply for licensing and undergo state inspection. Because of this law, it has significantly increased the number of participating vendors at the DYFM, as well as attracting more shoppers.

According to Growing Hope’s Market Manager Christine Easley, “This legislation has been instrumental in being able to help vendors make a living, especially, those who are supplementing a loss of income from layoffs, government cut backs or for new stay-at-home moms.”

Not only have the DYFM and Growing Hope been able to help local growers and vendors, but also those from lower income households. By participating with various food assistance programs, in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Health Department, the DYFM accepts bridge cards and have also created a coupon book for households to buy fresh produce from the DYFM.

“By being able to provide healthier food access through the coupon books, our directive is to reach all income levels and educate the public on healthier eating habits,” Easley said.

Thirty percent of the DYFM sales come from the success of the food assistance programs.

Some new and innovative approaches the DYFM is introducing to the public this year is the bike blender, a cooking demonstration tent, nutritional educators and the Double Up Food Bucks program, which increases bridge card contributions up to $20 that only go toward fruits and vegetables. According to Easley, the new double up program not only helps the individual buyer, but also supplements the local farmers who have been experiencing decreases in government subsidies.

With a cooking demonstration tent this year, Easley hopes to increase Growing Hope’s community outreach education initiatives. “By expanding options at the market, we’re trying to bring new tastes to the public, encourage people to try something new and hopefully increase awareness on how to pick proper produce and prepare a meal with the produce bought at the market.”

Completely separate from the DYFM, the Ypsilanti Depot Town Farmers’ Market, open on Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m., includes many of the same local growers and vendors. Founded in 1978, the market has been a staple to the Ypsilanti area through the generations. Market manager and current EMU student Dayna Sprentall recalls her fond memories of the market and its impact on the community. “One of my goals as market manager is to collect the history of the market from those who have been involved in the past. There are vendors at the Famers’ Market who have been selling produce in Ypsilanti for over 30 years and I have my own memories going to the market as a kid with my parents.”

Like the DYFM, the Farmers’ Market also participates with food assistance programs, through the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative, by accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits. With this collaboration, the Farmers’ Market has seen a significant increase in sales.

“When Growing Hope started the Tuesday Downtown Market seven years ago with healthy food access for all as a priority, they opened the door for our market to be able to accept SNAP benefits as well,” Sprentall said. “Then we were two of a few markets in Michigan accepting SNAP benefits. Now there are over 80.”

Upcoming events that Sprentall highlighted include, “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day on May 19 and Kim Nichols, Chef at Harvest Kitchen in Ypsilanti, will be at the market giving tips on how to prepare seasonal produce. Also, we have an exciting event in coordination with Think Local First, Harvest Kitchen, The Ypsilanti Food Cooperative and the Corner Brewery a Strawberry Showcase on June 16.”

As an Ypsilanti native, Sprentall has had many wonderful and fond memories of the area and a particularly deep appreciation for the Farmers’ Market.

“There’s so much to love about the Depot Town Market [Farmers’ Market].
Saturday morning in Ypsilanti is a bit more laid back than other Saturday markets. Not many people are in a hurry. Families come with their kids and their dogs and stand around to socialize with friends and neighbors. And of course, there’s always plenty of great fresh produce and other locally made products.”

For more information about volunteering at the Ypsilanti Depot Town Farmers’ Market, contact Dayna Sprentall at depottownmarket@gmail.com. For more information about the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmer’s Market go to the Growing Hope website at: www.growinghope.net/programs/market.


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