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Home Grown at Every Turn-The Kalamazoo Farmers Market is More Than Healthy Food

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Farmers Market produce

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market, located at 1204 Bank St. in Kalamazoo, has been providing shoppers with a locally-grown abundance of fresh food for more than 100 years.

Today, it is about way more than the food. The market has grown into a social hub for growers, artisans, and musicians, to name a few. They come to support the local economy. They come to support each other. They come to eat at the food trucks.
This season 125 participating businesses are expected by summer, so it looks like the market will be the place to be on Saturday mornings.

"Our markets have the full array of locally grown, produced, or crafted foods and a healthy mix of quality products from throughout our region," said Chris Broadbent, Kalamazoo resident and Farmers Market Manager.

Farmers Market logo

The Kalamazoo Peoples' Food Co-op, also known as the PFC, operates the market and promoted Broadbent from Farmers Market Coordinator in 2013. This will be the 2008 Western Michigan University graduate's third year managing the market.

The PFC also supports and hosts the 100 Mile Market and the newly-opened Washington Square Market.

The Kalamazoo Farmers Market on Bank Street is no ordinary market. People come from all over to shop for fresh food in Kalamazoo. In 2014, The Daily Meal listed the market as number 24 on its 101 Best Farmers Markets in America for 2014 list.

Direct, positive feedback at the point of purchase validates the notion that vendors are bringing the right things to the right people, Broadbent said.

Farmers Market shoppers

"What sets our market apart are the people who participate," said Broadbent. "Vendors are selling products, community partners are engaging people around food, while at the same time being entertained. Kalamazoo is in a superb agricultural region.

"The local food movement is growing and markets are a traditional place for people to access the bounty of our region," he said.

Food assistance currency is also accepted, which flows back in to the local economy. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Benefits (SNAP) benefits and the Double Up Food Bucks are two examples who have supported direct access to market foods to the tune of $85,000 last year at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

The eclectic mix of people who come together at the market includes musicians. One local song writer and singer, Kaitlin Rose, has been a regular at the Farmers Market since 2013.

Appearing occasionally at the 100-Mile Market and in a variety of Kalamazoo venues as well, she has been a familiar face on the Kalamazoo music scene for 12 years.
She recently released an album, The Other Side, made possible with Kickstarter funding, another combined community effort.

Rose said she could not have recorded the album without crowd funding.

"I gasped out loud every time someone pitched in," she said, "people were so generous."

Similar to the immediate feedback vendors receive from market-goers, when fans and other musicians support each other in a setting like this, it builds confidence and forms a bond of encouragement.

"I love witnessing and being a part of that, and the scene here in Kalamazoo has it," Rose said.

She will be performing her own original blend of folk music and rock at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market on June 20th and July 25th from 8-10 a.m.

Farmers Market crowd

Visit www.farmersmarketkalamazoo.com for events and entertainment at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market.

Local growers say it will be a bountiful year, one to enjoy and build on.

"We were presented with this chance to support our community's food system by running a world class market," said Broadbent. "Now we are excited about the challenges of building a marketplace where all feel welcome and they can contribute to and profit from participating."

This year the market is open Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November. Beginning in June and continuing through October the market will also be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday Night Markets will be offered on July 16, August 20, September 17, and October 15 from 6 to 10 p.m.

The Washington Square Market, 1315 Portage St., is expanding to offer an Open Air Market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. starting June 6.

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