Grand Rapids Press covers South East Area Farmers’ Market opening day

Food grower Robert Tolbert, Jr. plans to bring his produce back to the South East Area Farmers’ Market this year. The market’s new season is set to start June 2.

Grand Rapids farm market returns Saturday with focus on ‘food justice’

Published: Thursday, May 31, 2012, 11:33 AM

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – An annual effort to combat the “food deserts” of southeast Grand Rapids resumes Saturday. A new season for the South East Area Farmers’ Market is scheduled to begin 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Garfield Park, 2006 Jefferson St. SE.

A second weekly site will open 2-7 p.m. Fridays starting June 15 at Gerald R. Ford Middle School, 851 Madison Ave. SE.

About a handful of vendors are expected to sell chemical-free fruits and vegetables at each site, said Stelle Slootmaker, spokeswoman for the non-profit Our Kitchen Table, which will begin its second year of running the market in partnership with the Kent County Health Department and Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council.

“The goal is to bring the food into the neighborhoods that some have defined as ‘food deserts,’” she said. “We’re not about entrepreneurship or making profits. We’re about food justice.

“We believe food is a right, so we’re working to make that right accessible to the people of Grand Rapids. The industrial food system has let urban neighborhoods down.”

About 90 percent of the vendors are people who grow food in home gardens, and “we’re going to have a small start in June until our yard gardeners have some more produce growing,” Slootmaker said. The market tests the yards of home growers for lead and arsenic.

Farmers from Allendale, Sparta and Wayland also are expected to sell produce. The weekly vendor fee is $10.

More than 1,400 people visited the market last year. This year’s market will run at the Garfield site through Oct. 27, and at the Ford site until school resumes in September.

“We like the fact that we are a neighborhood-based market,” said Lisa Oliver-King, Our Kitchen Table’s executive director. “We’re smaller (than some other markets), which allows us to be more intimate with the customers.”

The market participates in WIC Project FRESH, Market FRESH and the Kent County WIC Pilot Project. Shoppers also can pay with cash, check, debit card or the Michigan Bridge Card. Customers using Bridge cards can take advantage of Double Up Food Bucks.

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