Tag Archive | Our Kitchen Table

OKT and market vendors ready to set course for next season

Last Friday, Our Kitchen Table hosted the vendors serving the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market for a 2011 market season review and 2012 season preview. At the beginning of last season, about a dozen farmers and growers indicated interest in selling at our two market locations. However, throughout the season, only a faithful three or four kept coming back regularly.

As managers of the markets, OKT hopes to attract more vendors who will commit to being at the markets week in and week out. Even though the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market has been running for quite a few years, roadblocks along the way have forced quite a few location changes. This has made it difficult for the market to gain momentum. The 2011 market season brought yet another location change. Growers expecting larger profits pulled out early on.

On the bright side, both the Garfield Park and Gerald R Ford School locations built a good community of customers by the end of the 2011 season. Even though vendor numbers were low, each week our customers found the produce they wanted to buy. The markets never sold out! These customers kept our faithful vendors coming back―and committed to returning next season. In fact, our vendors are now planning next year’s gardens to grow more of the specific foods that market customers will enjoy.

Would you like to see more variety and more vendors at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market? The best way to make that happen is to shop more at the market. Our vendors are good folks who enjoy doing a good turn—but they also need to go home with a little money in their pockets!

What would you like vendors to sell at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market next year? Contact OKT and let us know! OKTable1@gmail.com.

Want to grow a food garden? Come out to “Cook, Eat & Talk”

  • Who: Current and prospective food gardeners
  • What: Review 2011 and preview 2012 OKT garden program
  • When: 6 p.m. Tuesday Dec. 12
  • Where: Madison Square CRC
  • Why: Participate in OKT’s 2012 food garden program

With the holidays right around the corner, most people are not thinking about gardening. However, the women of Our Kitchen Table have been busy these past weeks setting things in motion for next year’s Southeast Area Farmers’ Market.

Our farmers’ market vendors include home gardeners as well as farmers. Next season, we hope to have even more home gardeners selling their produce at the markets.  On Tuesday Dec. 13, OKT is hosting a “Cook, Eat and Talk” session for both gardeners who participated in OKTs gardening program last growing season and neighbors who are interested in participating in 2012.

The OKT Food Diversity Project gardening program is open to residents living within the SECA, Baxter, Eastown and Garfield Park neighborhoods who are pregnant or have children under age six; have economic challenges; or have health challenges that can be addressed by growing their own food, for example, diabetes, lead poisoning, asthma or high blood pressure.

OKT resources include starter plants, compost, soil testing, containers and/or raised beds for growing and garden coaches as well as a host of educational opportunities. And, when the harvest comes in, these home growers can share their surplus with neighbors or sell their surplus at the Southeast Area Farmers’ Market. For more information, come to the “Cook, Eat and Talk” session or contact OKT, OKTable1@ gmail.com or 616-570-0218.

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market Vendor Spotlight

One of the challenged of getting the new  Southeast Area Farmer’s Market locations off the ground has been recruiting vendors to sell chemical free produce. Several vendors have stepped forward to make these markets a success this past summer.  Let’s shine the spotlight on two of them today.

Robert Tolbert Jr. perfects his display of fresh, family grown produce.

Robert Tolbert Sr. has come to both market locations all season long. Mr. Tolbert grows his produce in a plot in the Hillcrest Community Garden and at a garden on his own property. Last Saturday at Garfield Park, his wife, Jeannie, and son, Robert Jr. were on hand selling the bountiful turnips, collard greens, tomatoes, peppers, giant green beans, corn and peppers.

Jeannie stays out of the garden but helps out by washing, bundling and displaying the crop at market—and she does a beautiful job. “My husband, he loves to see things grow,” Mrs. Tolbert says.

“Fresh grown produce is hearty and yummy,” says Mrs. Kass.

The Kasses bring produce from their half-acre, chemical free garden in Kent City. Bob Kass grew up in the Garfield Park neighborhood so enjoys getting back to his roots, so to speak. “We got more than we can eat so we’ve been giving produce away to the food pantry. If we sell some, too, then we can replant next year,” Mr. Kass says.

Last week, the Kasses brought several varieties of Kale, tomatoes, sweet corn, apples and herbs to market. “Fresh grown produce is hearty and yummy,” says Mrs. Kass. “I can eat as much of it as I want and it doesn’t matter—I  lost 80 pounds by eating fruits and vegetables instead of other fattening foods!“

Just a reminder

You can use your Project Fresh, Senior Project Fresh, WIC or Kent County Health Department coupons for produce at either Southeast Area Farmers’ Market location. We also accept EBT/Bridge Cards and participate in the Double Up Food Bucks program. The market locations are:

  • Fridays 5 to 7 p.m.  At Gerald R. Ford Middle School.
  • Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Garfield Park.

Both Southeast Area Farmers’ Market locations are open through Nov. 6.

Southeast Area Farmers’ Market looking forward to busy fall

Now that school is back in session, the Southeast Area Farmer’s Market Gerald R Ford Middle School location  will remain open–but for fewer hours.  Beginning Sept. 9, this location will be open from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., so as not to interfere with school traffic and activities.

August was a grand month for this location. During the four dates the market was open, we counted a total of 310 customer visits.  That means a lot of healthy food is making it into our neighborhoods’ kitchens. A big thank you to all those who came to the market! Thanks for telling  your friends and neighbors. Another big thank you to The Grand Rapids Times!  The column they have been running about the market has been instrumental in spreading the word.

The Southeast Area Farmer’s Market’s two locations distributed 137 Double Up Food Bucks tokens to our customers. These customers doubled the amount of produce they received for the amount they spent. It’s not too late to take advantage of this program. If you shop with an EBT card, you will receive a $2 token for every two dollars you spend—up to $20 in tokens each time you visit.

The markets also honored $225 worth of Kent County Health Department and Project Fresh coupons. If you have any of these coupons, bring them in before it’s too late!

The Southeast Area Farmer’s Market Garfield Park location is open Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  Both farmers’ market locations will be open through November 6.

Empty Molesta Greenhouses Grow Food Plants for Grand Rapids Neighbors

Empty Molesta greenhouses grow food plants for Grand Rapids neighbors


June 13, 2011 Grand Rapids, MI–The women of Our Kitchen Table, a local grass roots environmental justice group, had a dream. They wanted to impact food security by providing resources to area residents who wanted to grow and share food. A grant from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation provided the seed money—but it was a local philanthropist “rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirty” that helped OKT’s Food Diversity Project sprout.

Dave Molesta, who operated Molesta Floral until it closed in 2010, invited Grand Valley State University’s Sustainable Agriculture Project to use Molesta’s empty greenhouses. The GVSU project extended the invitation to OKT.

Though flowers had been the wholesale grower’s focus for the past several decades, it originally provided Grand Rapids area residents with produce year ‘round. That all changed after World War II, when large-scale growers from across the country could ship larger varieties of produce at lower prices.

In a sense, Dave Molesta has gotten back to his roots. The greenhouses began growing 15,000 food plants in March. In addition to granting open access to the greenhouse space, Molesta provided planting containers, heat and water. He also allowed soil to be tested at the greenhouse site to support the effort to grow fresh and safe produce.

Community residents joined in events hosted at the Molesta greenhouse and another greenhouse site where they learned how to plant seeds, maintain seedlings and prepare for planting. In addition, two small urban farmers began growing produce to be sold at the Southeast Area Farmers Market.


Dave Molesta really helped us get our project off the ground this spring,” says Lisa Oliver King of OKT. “All the food plants have been donated out to various community gardeners providing food to families in need, low-income backyard growers and GRPS schools with food gardens. Now that people have these heirloom, organic plants in their gardens, they will be able to save the seeds and propagate their own food plants for years to come.”

OKT also provided plants to others with limited resources, for example, Well House, housing alternative for the homeless, and Clancy Street Church community garden space, where 18-low-income families grow and share food.

It was great to connect with Our Kitchen Table, with the work they do, to get healthy food to Well House community as well as the broader community,” said Judi Buchman, director of Well House. “The plants got us going when we were busy with lots of other tasks … It helped remind us:  it’s time!”



0ur Kitchen Table is a non-profit, grassroots community activist organization working for environmental justice and food security in Grand Rapids area urban communities.

Established in 1930, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information, please visit the Foundation’s website at http://www.wkkf.org.

The South East Area Farmers’ Market Opening Day (Pictures)

Gerald R Ford Middle School and Garfield Park Farmers’ Market Opening Day

The Garfield Park Farmers Market will not be open Saturday the 28th due to memorial day.

[The 2011 Southeast Farmers Market is sponsored by a partnership between Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council, Kent County Health Department and Our Kitchen Table]