The average college student’s kitchen is likely to contain beer, Hot Pockets, or frozen pizza—not fresh organic produce.
But for psychology senior Sarah Vedolich, locally grown organic green peppers and apples filled her kitchen this fall.
The second season of the East Lansing Farmers Market helped make the trading of usual college staples for fresh locally grown food a more common occurrence.
“Buying locally is import, I like to do it but as a college student it’s not always possible for me and the market’s location made it possible—you could get fresh stuff for a decent price,” Vedolich said.
The market, located just feet away from Michigan State University campus in Valley Court Park, 201 Hillside Court, takes place Sundays from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. from early July to late October, ending this year on Oct. 31. The market features a diverse selection of fresh Michigan grown produce, bake goods, meat and fish, in an inviting atmosphere.
“The farmers market committee decided the location had to be visible and accessible for students and residents and we choose Sundays so not to interfere with other city organizations or parking,” said market manager Michelle Carlson. “We loved the fun park like setting where people could just come play in the park.”
In addition to its diverse vendors, the market featured local musicians and promoted community development by allowing residents to get to know each other as well as the farmers and vendors. The atmosphere was just as important as the products, Carlson said.
“You aren’t just paying for the food you are paying for the experience. You get to meet exactly who is growing your food, so it cuts out the middleman,” said advertising junior Nick Halfhill.
The East Lansing farmers market’s friendly atmosphere extended past the shoppers reaching the vendors as well.
“It was fun interacting between vendors. At some markets vendors get a feeling like ‘this is my area’ and make it competitive, but not in East Lansing because we were all so diverse—we even made friendships,” said Shelia Rae, East Lansing farmers market vendor.
Rae, a former teacher and nutritional speaker, is founder of Bizzy Lizzy Bakery, a flourless bakery that specializes in a tasty high-fiber, high-protein meal replacement breakfast cookie. One of two bakeries in the East Lansing market, Bizzy Lizzy Bakery uses entirely Michigan made ingredients.
“My favorite thing was that every week there was something new – fruits, flowers, bake goods. Throughout the summer and fall you could just see the abundance and that was really exciting knowing it all was from Michigan,” Carlson said.
Keeping the market local was crucial for the planning committee and manager. When deciding on its vendors, market planners looked for Michigan-made unique products that people would people come back for. The diverse group of vendors included Michigan-grown produce, Great Lakes fish, and local wild flowers, as well as some local businesses selling their Michigan-made products including El Azteco and Grand Traverse Pie Co., who used the market mostly for promotion.
With the importance of local eating becoming prominent, the idea for a new farmers market in the area was well received by students and residents and is on track for a third year.
“Community members love it, even the idea of it,” Carlson said
Even seasoned vendors were pleasantly surprised by the quaint market, saying it was well organized and profitable.
“We’re very picky about markets because we’ve been to good and bad but this one is awesome. We gave up other events to attend this one—I was impressed across the board,” Rae said. “The coordinators were there and helped. Finding market managers like this one has makes for a great market.”
For more information visit http://www.cityofeastlansing.com/FarmersMarket.