Just because you are off to college doesn’t mean you have to survive on microwave ramen noodles, mac n’ cheese and PB and J sandwiches. There are plenty of wonderful farmers’ markets, co-ops and gardens that provide locally sourced, organic produce and products that are healthy, budget friendly and are sure to please mom and dad while you are away from home.
At the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market, Bridgewater Farms offers a surprising variety of different free-range, grain fed chicken and pork, as well as fresh eggs and produce.
In 1999, owners Tony and Janet Cowling purchased their 1890s historical seven acre farm in Bridgewater Township. Six years ago, their venture grew into selling at the Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market, which they see as significant increase in their success.
“The increasing interest and support for local food is good news in Ypsilanti. But, essentially, it is the people in the community who make it worthwhile. They are the ones who show up every week saying yes to a better way of eating, living and socializing,” said Janet Cowling.
Across the way was Delicious Diversity by Andrea DiMuzio. After sampling some unique jam flavors like raspberry-chipotle and lemon-ginger jam, DiMuzio shared interesting ways she incorporates jams into a meal.
“Jam is pretty fun to work with,” DiMuzio said. “I do everything from PB and J to glazing chicken with it. It definitely goes with yoghurt, ice cream, cheesecake, toast and pancakes. Lemon ginger and the other marmalades are great for adding to a stir-fry.”
In addition to the awesome customer feedback she’s received, DiMuzio had nothing but praise for the Ypsilanti community.
“Everyone is so welcoming and helpful. The encouragement and assistance within the community is unbeatable. I have lived in the Ypsi area for about five years and the market has been the greatest community of people that I have gotten involved with and I love it,” DiMuzio said.
Visiting the Depot Town Farmers’ Market is always a fun, relaxed and social place to be on Saturdays. Families, students and pets gather not just for great produce and live music, but also for meeting new people and getting re-acquainted with old friends.
Candace Pinaud and her friend from South Lyon came out not just to pick up a box of produce from the CSA Needle-Lane Farms, but to support the local community.
“I love the local community in Ypsi,” said Pinaud. “There are no chain stores here, you know that? It’s all locally owned stuff that keeps everything bohemian and unique. You’re not going to find the same thing at one store as another.”
First time DTFM visitors, current EMU student Brandon Coudreau, with EMU alumna and friend Megan Szkarlat, said, “What I love about all farmers’ markets is to get away from giant grocery stores and to support local farmers. I also like the fact that the Ypsi markets accept bridge cards.”
Szkarlat also said, “Anytime I can buy anything locally made or grown, I just love it. Now that I’m in Florida, everything is a chain. I miss Ypsilanti’s community culture and independently-owned businesses and you can’t find places like Ypsilanti anymore.”
Working at the Ypsilanti Food Cooperative stand at the market, Eastern Michigan University’s Giving Garden President and current EMU urban planning student Erica Mooney, not only sold a delicious mixed-berry turnover, but also explained Giving Garden and what they are currently doing on campus.
Founded in 2009 by Lauren Allmayer and Lindsey Scalera, Mooney expressed that it has been difficult to expand and maintain the garden, because students are always coming and going.
“We haven’t gotten any donations this year, so we haven’t been able to help the community, which is what we’re all about,” Mooney said. “Plus, we haven’t had any extra yield to donate to the SOS food pantry.”
For as little as $20, EMU students, staff, faculty and alumnus can apply to lease an 8 foot by 10 foot plot at the Giving Garden, where anyone can volunteer in their Learning Garden Program and Fresh Food Donation Program.
With a bag full of produce and sweltering in the heat of the day, it was time to head home for a healthy, quick and simple meal. And what better way to utilize fresh produce than making a salad out of some beautiful, lush arugula, ripe asparagus, onion and garlic and some delicious pesto-ciabatta bread from Riverside Bakery (a part of Ypsilanti Food Cooperative), all for $10.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t just about the produce and creating a wonderful meal—it was about meeting amazing people and hearing about their love for the community and commitment to supporting local growers and businesses.