Unbeknownst to the tens of thousands of students and professionals who pour into Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Michigan yearly is that many of the citizens who call Ypsilanti home live in food desert — approximately one in three lives below the poverty line, and car ownership is low. Yet hope has come to this community in the guise of a seemingly unassuming converted 1930s farmhouse that harbors an educational powerhouse for the community in its backyard.
From its 1.4-acre site, the 501(c)3 organization Growing Hope operates hoop houses, a number of farmers’ markets, organizes more than 700 volunteers annually, works with state-run organizations and advocates on a national level to support and strengthen farmers’ markets.
The innovative and comprehensive Vermont Farm to Plate food system strategic plan unveiled five years ago has borne fruit.
A little more than halfway through the 10 year strategic plan, Vermont has seen increases in food system jobs and local food purchasing, but still faces challenges related to farmland access, food insecurity, farm viability, and local food availability.
The VT Farm to Plate strategic plan, created in 2011 by the Vermont Sustainable Job Fund (VJSF) per legislation passed in 2009, focuses on developing and implementing solutions to create more jobs in the state’s farm and food economy, augment economic development in Vermont’s food sector, and increase food access. The Farm to Plate food system plan aims to not only support Vermont’s long established dairy product and maple syrup industries, but also to encourage the growth and diversification of the state’s food system economy.
A few years ago Seedstock brought you a list of America’s oldest farmers’ markets. This year we’re celebrating the opening of farmers’ market season around the country by giving you five more farmers’ markets with storied pasts that are worth visiting this summer.
Boston, MA: Haymarket/The Boston Public Market
Boston’s Haymarket Square has been a hub of commercial activity since the 1600s, and for the past 150 years, the area near the square has also been host to a weekly produce market that promises the city’s best prices on an international selection of fruits and vegetables. What began as a gathering of hay farmers selling horse feed and mattress stuffing is now a bustling epicenter of straight-off-the-truck produce often sold right out of the box. While the Haymarket produce market isn’t the best place to go to check items off your all-organic shopping list, it is a refreshingly classic, no-frills outdoor market in the heart of America’s oldest city, and an important living monument that endures in an area of Boston that’s been demolished and rebuilt multiple times during the city’s history.
Sourdough starters. Vinegar. Cider, kimchi, kefir, and a variety of misos.
Up until this past October, these aging wonders, along with Oregonian Tara Whitsitt, were traveling around the United States in a school bus-turned-fermentation lab. Whitsitt and her crew were visiting cities and communities across the country to spread knowledge about fermentation.
“It promotes the importance of staying connected to your local food source,” explains Whitsitt, “Fermentation on Wheels encourages sustainable food practices and values in addition to teaching empowerment and preservation through fermentation.”
The last decade has seen nothing short of a bonanza in farmers’ markets in America. Between 2007-2014, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has grown by nearly 180 percent, according to a January 2015 USDA report. That’s accompanied by a 288 percent growth in regional food hubs and 430 percent in farm-to-school programs.
But the data also show that while food hub sales continue to climb, sales at farmers’ markets may have peaked.
So can farmers, especially ones who operate on a small scale, make enough money at farmers’ markets to make it worth their while? Or is the proliferation of farmers’ market we’ve seen over the last decade coming to an end?