Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in America and leads the nation in the production of several crops, including: tart cherries, blueberries, dry black beans, and squash.
June 30, 2017 - Author: Rachel Kelly Rachel Kelly
By: Rachel Kelly, Center for Regional Food Systems
Michigan is the second most agriculturally diverse state in America and leads the nation in the production of several crops, including: tart cherries, blueberries, dry black beans, and squash (see Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development fact sheet for more details). If you are unsure when to find your favorite fruit or are wondering what’s in store at the farmer’s market this weekend, use this guide to know when Michigan farmers will bring which foods to market.
Michigan has plenty of farmers markets to choose from, and there are now more opportunities than ever for Michiganders to purchase fresh, locally grown produce at a farmers market. Listed below are some of the farmer’s market innovations happening across the state to help Michigan residents—particularly low-income families or those living in areas where fresh food is less accessible —have easier and affordable access to good food.
Mobile markets are unique in that they deliver local, fresh fruits and vegetables to underserved neighborhoods where options to purchase such food are limited or do not exist. Many also accept SNAP/EBT, DUFB, WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH. Examples include:
Prescription for Health includes a variety of related programs throughout Michigan. According to the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), prescription for health programs are based on healthcare professionals “prescribing” healthy dietary changes—like increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables—to low-income patients who face a higher risk of diet-related diseases. Patients receive tokens or coupons to spend at participating farmers markets throughout the season. Washtenaw County’s Prescription for Health program has successfully seen participants increase their fruit and vegetable consumption, according to their Program Implementation Guide. Examples of past and present programs throughout the state include:
Food assistance programs are accepted at many farmers markets. See Michigan Farmers Market Association’s page for food assistance clients to learn more. The food assistance programs that are accepted at some Michigan farmers markets include:
MIFMA is a leader in the effort to increase access to local, fresh produce for Michigan residents through farmers markets. The organization has published comprehensive resource manuals and hosts annual webinars to provide training and assistance to farmers markets that are new to accepting Bridge Cards or interested in starting. According to the 2015 MIFMA Annual Report, 155 of the 300 farmers markets in Michigan accepted SNAP Bridge Cards in 2015, up from 130 in 2013. More on MIFMA’s work around SNAP benefits and work to increase food access through farmers markets can be found at http://mifma.org/foodaccess/.
Hoophouses for Health is a MIFMA program intended to help families facing food insecurity as well as farmers. Farmers apply for zero-interest, five year loans to build a hoophouse, which allows them to extend their growing season. Families struggling with food access can apply for vouchers to purchase produce from participating Hoophouses for Health farmers at local farmers markets. Famers then use the vouchers they receive to pay off their loan, while more Michigan families have the opportunity to purchase fresh, local fruits and vegetables. According to MIFMA’s website, 43 farmers participated in the program in 2015.
The many innovations listed above reflect only some of the efforts being made to increase food access at farmers markets for all Michigan residents. In a state with so much to offer agriculturally, these programs facilitate shopping at a farmers market, a great way to both access to our state’s fresh produce and and support our local communities.