Farmers markets begin next week
HOUGHTON — With temperatures finally warming up, the summer farmers market season is nearly underway, with more vendors than ever to choose from.
The From the Ground Farmers Market Collective is now in its second year managing the farmers markets in Hancock, Houghton and Calumet.
The markets had already been operating individually. But the job of running them was falling to people tasked with other things.
“Calumet has grown to probably be the third-largest farmers market in the U.P. — just an incredible market,” said Rachael Pressley, From the Ground’s co-founder and board secretary. “So that market really hit a capacity where their Main Street director was having to spend 15 to 25 hours a week working at the market, and she’s only slated for 30 hours a week at Main Street Calumet.”
By combining the markets under one umbrella, they could pay someone to coordinate the market, along with boosting their capacity to handle food-access programs. In 2021, Calumet’s market facilitated the purchase of $8,000 in food through the programs. Last year, that increased to $30,000, Pressley said.
It’s also becoming more common for vendors to use greenhouses, allowing them to bring products to early markets that normally wouldn’t be seen in the area until late June or early July, said Margaret Hansen, a board member of From the Ground and owner of the cooking school Teach to Taste.
“It is a really exciting time because you’ve been waiting all this time to get into the farmer’s market,” she said “We’ve got quite a few new vendors, and I can’t wait to meet them, and for them to meet each other.”
With the added capacity this year, From the Ground is facilitating eight food access programs to reduce the cost of food for residents — more than any other market in the state, Pressley said. Those include national programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). There are also local programs like Husky Food Access Network, a Michigan Technological University program that provides 300 tokens a month for food-insecure students to buy food from the market.
The Portage Lake District Library also provides dollars redeemable at the market through its summer reading program for people who qualify.
“All of this reduces the cost of local food while supporting local farmers and small businesses,” Pressley said.
From the Ground is working with community organizations such as UP Kids and BHK Child Development on a CSA (community supported agriculture) program.
Those organizations identify families with food-insecure children. From the Ground then picks up food from four vendor farmers each day to prepare a food box, which they deliver to the families for free each week.
“From the Ground Farmers Market Collective is very committed to food access, and so we see the farmers markets as a way to facilitate local food — the best food for our community,” Pressley said.
Hansen had been selling at the Calumet market when it was a handful of vendors selling periodically. During COVID, the market became a central hub, she said.
Putting the markets under centralized leadership helped vendors, who now only had to deal with one set of rules, Hansen said.
“It was just very cohesive and collaborative, instead of competitive, and that is what vendors really loved,” she said. “Now, we’re attracting so many people to the farmers market as a vendor and as a customer.”
Hansen is also leading vendor training. It covers everything from setting up booths to the steps involved in accepting food assistance programs, some of which only accept certain foods.
Jake TenHarmsel, From the Ground’s board chair and co-owner of North Harvest CSA, which sells vegetables and flowers at the markets.
For this year’s markets, From the Ground is also hoping to add live demonstrations, whether cooking or blacksmithing. Some of the markets will also have live music.
“It’ll just make it a fun, family-oriented experience for people to come and get good food,” he said.
Some markets will also have outside food vendors. Calumet will have hot beef sandwiches, while Houghton anticipates having food trucks at the market periodically,
Calumet and Houghton’s markets will have an additional flex hour, where sellers with extra produce and wares will stay for longer to accommodate people who couldn’t make it earlier.
Starting June 13, Houghton will hold its market on the new pier downtown every Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m., with flex hours of 6 to 7 p.m. It will continue through Oct. 10.
The pier opened last fall, in time for the farmers market to have its final two weekly markets of the year. Vendors noticed the difference immediately, Pressley said.
Calumet’s markets will be held at 340 Sixth St., next to the Calumet Theatre. They’ll be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday between June 17 and Oct. 7. Flex hours will be 2 to 3 p.m.
Organizers had originally switched the 2023 location to Agassiz Park to avoid road construction. However, that will no longer be happening at the beginning of the season,
On Thursdays, Hancock will hold its tori and farmers market from 3 to 6 p.m. on Quincy Green. Those will happen between June 15 and Oct. 12.
For more updates, go to ftg.org or visit From the Ground on Facebook at facebook.com/fromthegroundfmc.