By Jennifer Hoff
One of the most vibrant farm markets in West Michigan returns to the campus of Metro Health – University of Michigan Health for its 14th season beginning Thursday, May 11.
The Metro Health Farm Market expects to welcome about 35 local vendors on opening day, adding another 20 or so as the weather warms. For the 2017 season, the farm market will be open every Thursday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., rain or shine, May 11 through Oct. 12.
“A healthy community starts with a healthy diet,” says Mike Faas, chief executive officer of Metro Health – University of Michigan Health. “Metro Health isn’t here just to treat illness. We’re here to be a complete wellness resource. Providing access to affordable, healthy food is part of our responsibility to the community.”
The Metro Health Farm Market is located on the grounds of Metro Health Hospital, 5900 Byron Center Ave. SW in Wyoming, adjacent to the Village Green.
Though best known for fresh fruits and vegetables, it also offers baked goods, homemade foods, plants and hand-crafted items. Vendors come from throughout West Michigan.
“We aim for a mix of about three food vendors to every one crafter,” says Emil Hannesson, farm market manager. “Our priority is to support sustainable local farms selling their own produce.”
One such vendor is Austhof’s Farm in Grandville, which returns to the Metro Health Farm Market for its seventh season.
“The Metro market is the place to be in the summer,” says Tamryn Austhof of Austhof’s Farm. “We love it because it delivers such a strong sense of community and such a broad variety of vendors.”
The fare is so diverse that the market publishes a weekly recipe featuring produce from vendors. The Farm Market Recipe of the Week is distributed at the on-site information booth and available on the Metro Health website.
Daily attendance at the Metro Health Farm Market averages well over 1,000. Shoppers come from the surrounding Wyoming community, as well as throughout the greater Grand Rapids area.
“Many of our customers are low income, with few options for fresh, affordable produce,” Hannesson says. “The Farm Market supports community health by making it easier for these customers to choose nutritious food.”
About one-third of customers pay using government assistance. The Farm Market accepts SNAP Bridge Cards, WIC Project FRESH and Senior Project FRESH.
The Farm Market also participates in Double Up Food Bucks, a state assistance program that helps low-income people stretch their food dollars. When SNAP shoppers spend at the Farm Market, they’re eligible for matching funds to buy Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables—up to $20 each market day.
Beyond its role as a source of fresh, affordable produce, the Metro Health Farm Market also serves as a place for the community to come together. That’s especially true when market days coincide with the following special events planned for the Metro Health Village Green:
- Kids Day on June 15 offers a variety of fun activities for families.
- Health and Wellness Day on July 27 invites the community to learn about ways to live healthier.
- Sustainability Day on August 17 invites the community to learn about ways to live greener.
“If it’s about improving health—of our patients, of our community, of our environment—it’s happening here,” Faas says.