Farmers markets keep food local, healthy

Shoppers peruse the offerings at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market on a warm summer day. There are a number of programs the market participates in that make buying local food easier and cheaper. (Photos by Tom Buchkoe)

Shoppers peruse the offerings at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market on a warm summer day. There are a number of programs the market participates in that make buying local food easier and cheaper. (Photos by Tom Buchkoe)

by  Laura Gauthier, WIC coordinator, Marquette County Health Department

Spring has sprung. It’s time to think about fresh produce again. The local farmers markets are again coming back to life. Buying from a community farmers market is a great way to have fresh produce right at your fingertips. Nothing is better than having the fresh taste of homemade salsa, delicious soup or a colorful salad made from fruits and vegetables grown locally.   

If time or space are an issue when it comes to having a backyard garden, the next best thing is local farmers markets. Fresh produce from local farms fills the markets from early spring until late fall. At the market, people can purchase locally-grown produce, chat with the farmers and learn how to make tasty dishes from several of the food demonstrations that are held there.

The Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, located in the Commons area in downtown Marquette, opens for the season May 21 and will run through December 17. From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday, visitors to the market can get fresh, locally grown produce and speak with any number of local artists selling their wares. The market accepts credit or debit cards, cash, MI Bridge Card, Project Fresh, Hoophouses for Health vouchers and Market Fresh coupons.

Project Fresh vouchers are available for eligible participants of the Women, Infants and Children program. The vouchers come in $20 booklets and can be used throughout the summer, starting in June, at the participating farmers markets throughout Michigan. The produce purchased must be Michigan-grown produce. For more information on the Marquette County WIC program, contact the WIC office at 475-7846.

Hoophouses for Health are vouchers that are distributed to households with children 0-8 years old who are registered in Head Start, AMCAB’s early childhood education programs or the YMCA’s early childhood education programs. The vouchers are used at a booth where the individual farmer can accept them. Those farmers who accept the Hoophouse for Health vouchers have a sign indicating their participation. The Downtown Marquette Farmers Market has six farmers currently involved. The program allocation is $16 per household member per month for fresh vegetables and fruits and other farm-produced products, including meats, eggs, jams, honey and maple syrup.

Double Up Food Bucks is another program that can provide additional money for the purchase of fresh produce. This program matches money on a participant’s MI Bridge Card, so customers must have money on their Bridge Card to use it.

The Double Up Food Bucks money matches up to $20 per week. That is an additional $80 to $100 per month to use at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market for fresh, unprocessed, Michigan-grown vegetables and fruits. That frees up the Bridge Card money for other grocery items available at the market: meat, eggs, bread and baked goods, honey, maple syrup and jam.

For questions about the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, including more information on the market, email marketmanager@mqtfarmersmarket.com  or call 362-3276. When the market is open, the market kiosk is always staffed with the market cashier to answer questions as well.

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