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Finding closest farmers’ markets only a few mouse clicks away

For Michiganders, summer means a chance to sample a wide variety of produce, much of it grown right here and available at roadside stands and farmers’ markets.

Some lucky citizens live close to year-round markets, allowing them unique opportunities to purchase seasonal local foods in an age of hothouse tomatoes and supermarket refrigerators carrying preserved, high-maintenance foods from distant states or countries. Others depend on the warmer weather to open up seasonal markets. Either way, visiting these vendors allows people to make a connection with farmers and a positive impact on the local economy. In return, the markets bring fresh and healthy foods into communities that otherwise would not have access to local products.

The Michigan Farmers’ Market Association (MIFMA), www.farmersmarkets.msu.edu, offers a variety of services for consumers, vendors and farmers, and market managers. For consumers, the most important service is an electronic database, listing farmers’ markets in each region of the state. This database has location, hours of operation and contact information, and lists whether Project FRESH Coupons and/or Food Stamps are accepted.

According to MIFMA, farmers’ markets have been sprouting up all over Michigan in the past five years. In 2001, there were around 90 markets; today, there are more than 150. While this is exciting, many of these markets struggle to maintain effective management and funding as well as find quantities of fresh food necessary to meet consumer demand. Community support is essential to the success of these local markets and the farmers who participate in them.

For those who plan on strolling through these markets during what remains of summer, MIFMA provides shopping tips on its web site as well as a FAQ section for those who are just beginning to explore the world of farmers’ markets. Several shopping tips are excerpted below:
  • Always bring cash, especially small bills and change, as you will be paying individual vendors.
  • Bring large cloth or net shopping bags to consolidate purchases.
  • Walk around the market when you first arrive, checking what is available and price ranges. Price and condition of the products can vary greatly, but make sure you are comparing the same production methods and quantities.
  • Think about bringing a cooler in your car in which to pack greens, meat, dairy or eggs for your trip home.
-Ariel Shaw, Michigan Environmental Council
RELATED TOPICS: agriculture, food policy
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