Thursday, May 4 kicks off the 50th season of the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market. Now through October 26, markets will take place at Island Park from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m every Thursday, and Saturdays through October 14 at Town Center on Broadway Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Note: Saturday, July 15 market will be held at Island Park.)
Epicenter Mt. Pleasant chatted with Carol Moody, recreation coordinator at Mt. Pleasant Parks & Recreation, and the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market market manager, about the history of the market. Plus, she shares what’s new for this season, what’s returning, and what 50th-season celebrations are in the works.
Epicenter: 50 years for the Farmers' Market is a big milestone anniversary! Can you walk us through how the market has evolved over the years?
The first market was held on July 20, 1973. There were six vendors. So many people showed up for the 2 p.m. start that it caused a traffic jam and the police had to be called to assist. The market was so popular that four of the six vendors completely sold out. The market was originally scheduled to take place in an open field, but moved to the shelter for fear of rain. 50 years later, the Thursday market continues to be held at the same shelter location.
A newspaper article focusing on the first Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market at the Island Park South Shelter Pavilion held on July 20, 1973. (Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Parks & Recreation)
The Saturday market was added in 2005. Over the years this market has been held in several locations: Town Center; City Hall; Michigan Street; and Broadway Street. The Saturday market is currently held at Town Center.
For many years the market was just that: a weekly market where the community would come to purchase fresh produce. Over the last decade we have seen the market evolve to become more of an experience/community event.
Today’s markets include cooking demonstrations, story time with the library, and special events like the Health is Wealth Health Expo and National Farmers Market Week Celebrations.
In 2014 we expanded the food assistance programs accepted at the market from WIC Project Fresh and Sr. Project Fresh/Market Fresh to include accepting Bridge Cards and participating in the Double Up Food Bucks program. In 2015 we began accepting credit and debit cards. Prescription for Health was offered beginning in 2019. In 2021 a Spring Market was added and a Winter Market was added as part of the Mt. Pleasant Christmas Celebration Friday night festivities.
Epicenter: What vendors can we expect to see at this year's Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Markets?
There are more than 50 registered vendors for this season with 12 new vendors joining the mix. Not only can you find farm-fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables, but you’ll find homemade baked goods, artisan crafts and food trucks too.
(Photo courtesy of Mt. Pleasant Parks & Recreation)Epicenter: In what ways will the city and community be celebrating the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market's 50th season?
Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market will celebrate the 50th
season in 2023. We are going to offer a farm-to-table brunch on Saturday, July 15 in celebration. The 50th
anniversary is July 20. We will have a special party on this day complete with a ribbon cutting to commemorate this milestone.
Epicenter: You have new programs that you’re introducing this season as well, yes?
Moody: This season we will introduce the Walk 50 Challenge. Good health isn't just what you eat. We invite shoppers to walk each time they attend the market. Incentives will be available for walking each 10 mile increments. Everyone who walks 50 miles this season will be entered into a drawing. We will utilize a walking app to track progress.
Another new program, The Power of Produce (POP) Club is a farmers market-based children's program that seeks to teach children about fruits and vegetables, local food systems, and healthy food preparation through fun activities. Participants engage in the full farmers’ market experience by trying new foods, having conversations with farmers, and buying local produce. Fun weekly activities ranging from cooking demonstrations to farmers’ market scavenger hunts, providing nutrition, food, agriculture, and exercise education to the children and families that participate each week. POP Club kids are encouraged to try new healthy foods and overcome picky eating through exposure to healthy food options in a fun and exciting environment. Through the Two-Bite Club, POP participants are rewarded for taking two bites of the featured fruit or vegetable, and receive a $2 voucher to spend on the foods of their choice at the market. These $2 vouchers also serve to empower kids, by giving them the purchasing power to buy from farmers and local vendors at the market. POP Club will be held during Thursday and Saturday farmers’ markets beginning in May and running through October. The program will look to serve 100 children a minimum of once a month with the option to expand to offer POP Club weekly depending on funding secured from multiple sources.
Epicenter: What programs will be returning this season to the 2023 Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market?
Garden Heroes are a fun and friendly way to help educate and promote eating fruits and vegetables to young children. From Andi Apple to Zoey Zucchini, these fruit and veggie characters help kids build an interest in nutrition and healthy eating.
Each week at the Farmers’ Market, a selected Garden Hero will be hidden within the market for young children to find. Once the child finds the hidden Garden Hero they will receive a prize from the vendor at the stall where the Garden Hero was hidden! Prizes will be provided by MPPR but vendors may contribute if they wish.
After the child has found the Garden Hero and received their prize the vendor will have the opportunity to teach the child more about the fruit or vegetable (e.g. where it grows, how it grows, how it’s eaten, etc.).
Another program that is returning is Cook the Kit, made possible through a community partnership with the Chippewa River District Library, Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market and McLaren Health Plan. Embark on your family-friendly edible adventure when you visit Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market this summer and pick up your own free Cook the Kit. Each Cook the Kit includes a featured farm-fresh recipe, pantry ingredients, and a voucher to redeem your farm-fresh produce ingredients while at the farmers market. Transform your kitchen into a harvest test kitchen that inspires your culinary talents while creating a specially selected recipe that's sure to satisfy your palates. Bonus bites -- each fun kit comes with a delicious reward at the end.
Cook the Kit will be available once per month for pick-up at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market on select Thursdays at Island Park and select Saturdays at Town Center at Broadway and Main Streets. While we may have some extra kits available the day of, we strongly encourage everyone to reserve their Cook the Kit in advance. To register, visit crdl.org.
Also, our Prescription for Health is returning, made possible through a community partnership with the MyMichigan Health, Mid-Michigan District Health Department, MSU-Extension and Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market.
Prescription for Health is a returning six-session series that helps you learn: how to eat healthy on a budget; tips for maintaining a healthy weight; how to use Farmers’ Market produce to prepare meals; how to make healthy eating a habit; and methods to increase your physical activity. Participants receive up to $80 in produce tokens to spend at the farmers market. To register, contact Rex Hoyt with the Mid-Michigan District Health Department via email@example.com
Carol Moody, recreation coordinator at Mt. Pleasant Parks & Recreation and the Mt. Pleasant Farmers' Market market manager, prepares for the market's 50th season at Island Park in downtown Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. (Photo: Courtney Jerome/Epicenter)Epicenter: Is there anyone you want to give a shout-out to with a special thanks for their passion and community support for the Farmers' Market?
The Michigan Farmers Market Association has been instrumental in helping us to bring the market to where we are today. Through MIFMA I was able to participate and complete the Farmers Market Certificate Program to become a Certified Market Manager.
Through MIFMA, Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market has received free equipment to process Bridge Card transactions. This service helped us to distribute nearly $35,000 in food assistance benefits through SNAP and Double Up Food Bucks in 2022. A special thanks to Isabella Bank for assisting as our market bank in processing these transactions.
In 2023, Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market is a recipient of the MIFMA Food Safety Grant Program. Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market in partnership with MSU-Extension will provide three individual food safety education sessions at the Thursday market at Island Park and the Saturday market at Broadway Street this season. The food safety education sessions will occur once during the months of June, July and August. Each month will feature a separate focus: Time & Temperature; Food Preservation; and Preventing Cross-Contamination.
Each food safety education session will feature a cooking demonstration. Recipe cards, food safety educational resources/activities and food safety tools will be distributed too.
Each food safety education session will emphasize the four basic practices - clean, separate, cook and chill. Reducing the risk of foodborne illness through improved awareness, knowledge, and attitudes around food safety among participants and their households is a primary goal of the education sessions.