Know where to look for local food this winter

Michigan offers plenty of opportunities to eat locally in the winter.

As we break out our winter coats and gloves and embrace shorter days, it’s easy to forget about farm-fresh food. Many Michigan residents are not used to seeking out local food in the winter or think that it is hard to find. This may be true in some areas, but if you live in many parts of Michigan, you can find local food year round—you just need to know where to look. For example, in Kalamazoo, a winter farmers market is held in the bingo hall right across the street from the outdoor farmers market. The Bank Street Winter Market is gearing up to open for its fifth year, but as a recent social media post highlighted, “each year we get people that tell us ‘I never knew about this.’” Find out if you have a farmers market near you that is open during the winter by visiting the Michigan Farmers Market Association’s Find a Farmers Market website.

More and more Michigan farms are offering Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares during the fall and winter, using season extension techniques such as hoophouses or high tunnels, and sometimes including value-added products and preserved foods. Visit LocalHarvest to find CSA programs near you. No winter market or CSA programs near you? Seek out and support your local bakery, coffee roaster, butcher, or any other locally-owned food business in your community.

Many grocery stores in Michigan now carry local products. In the produce section, look for Michigan apples nearly year round, thanks to controlled atmosphere storage technology. In the coolers, check the milk cartons for a five digit code. If the code begins with the number 26, the milk is from Michigan. Don’t forget to look for signage and labels indicating other locally-made products throughout the store.

The Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems work team supports the development of local food systems in Michigan. To connect with a local foods educator near you, visit the expert page or call 1-888-678-3464. 

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