May means it's time for Farmers Market season

If you love asparagus and rhubarb and have been waiting patiently for the Farmers Market to open this spring don't sleep in on Saturday. With the chilly spring, some farmers have less of those favorites than usual. Not to worry. Famers with hoop houses and others with a variety of produce will have enough to make up for it if you miss out on the first asparagus of spring.

Farmers Market season has arrived in Southwest Michigan. May marks the opening of the Kalamazoo and Portage Farmers Markets.

There will be more than 100 local farmers, producers, and artisans at 1204 Bank Street when the market opens from 7 a.m. till 2 p.m. Saturday, May 5. The Kalamazoo Farmers Market at Bank Street runs through Nov. 17. 

The Portage Market is going into its third season this year. It's open every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year it will be located at a new location at Portage City Hall, 7900 S. Westnedge Ave. The season gets underway with horse-drawn carriage rides starting and ending at Celery Flats from noon to 2 p.m.  The Portage Market will continue to have free yoga classes twice a month.

Kalamazoo’s weekly cooking demonstration program, Taste of the Market, will continue this season in partnership with Bronson Hospital, KVCC, and the American Culinary Federation. Demonstrations take place at 10:30 a.m. and showcase local, seasonal products that customers may not know how to cook. Free samples and recipes will be available while they last, and a Free Little Cookbook Library will be set up nearby as well. The first session will feature Chef Jason McClellan
cooking with ramps.

"Operating the cities farmers markets continues our mission to provide food access and support community and local economies through a thriving market culture," says Gaby Gerken, Farmers Market Manager for PFC Natural Grocery and Deli.

The markets have a number of new vendors of a variety of food and artisan products. Some of them are:
  • Bankson Lake Farm -- produce 
  • Cultured Love -- featuring five flavors of sauerkraut and kimchi 
  • Curve of the Earth Farm -- certified organic produce 
  • Dog House Doughnuts -- mini doughnuts in a variety of flavors 
  • Lovers Lane Micro Farm -- produce and honey
  • Mark It With a B -- homemade baked goods 
  • Mason's Candles -- farmers market inspired candles 
  • Peppermint Jim -- distilled peppermint oil and body care products 
  • Physic Kombucha -- Kalamazoo’s first kombucha brewery that is also women-owned 
  • Sacred Springs -- sound infused kombucha made in Grand Rapids 
  • Tabitha Farm -- produce, baked goods, and eggs 
  • Troll Meds -- salves infused with CBD oil 
  • Vogue Boogie -- handmade soy wax candles 
"The Farmers Market is a really affordable place for local entrepreneurs to start their businesses. The rental is really low and it gives them a place to test their product. They can put it in front of a lot of people," Gerken says.

Many vendors accept SNAP benefits. Those who have a Bridge Card can visit the market office to use their card to obtain wooden tokens to spend with vendors. Their SNAP dollars will be matched up to $20 per day through Double Up Food Bucks, a program that allows low-income customers a way to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and stretch their food dollars while at the same time creating extra income for local farmers. 

The markets also accept WIC Project FRESH,  SENIOR Market FRESH, and Hoophouses for Health. A win-win situation, these programs also benefit local food producers.

The Kalamazoo Market is also bike friendly. The City of Kalamazoo recently installed additional bike racks. And the Night Market offers bike valet, front row parking for those on bicycles. Those who ride to the market and show their helmet at the market office also can get $2 in Market Bucks to spend among the vendors.

For those who enjoy some music while shopping for produce, there will again be performances at 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 am. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays at Bank Street. And , and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays at the Portage Market.

The markets are operated by the PFC Natural Grocery and Deli. PFC has been building a locally focused food community since 1970. As a consumer-owned cooperative, PFC has more than 3,000 member-owners who have invested in the business, which works to create access to food that is healthy for people, land, and the economy.

Source: PFC Natural Grocery and Deli
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