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YMCA Farmers Market brings education, access to community

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Thursdays from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m., the downtown YMCA parking lot transforms into a bustling marketplace with Michigan-grown produce, homemade goods, cooking demonstrations and kids' activities.

/COURTESY of YMCA Farmers Market

Underwriting support from:

/COURTESY of YMCA Farmers Market

/COURTESY of YMCA Farmers Market

For a second season, the downtown YMCA Farmers Market is bringing together Grand Rapids’ urban residents and farmers from neighboring rural communities. This Thursday at 3:00 p.m. farmers will take a break from their fields, bakers will step away from their ovens and beekeepers will round their troops to join us in the David D. Hunting parking lot for the market’s opening celebration.

The market was founded in order to fulfill the YMCA’s commitment to promote healthy living, not only through leading an active lifestyle but also through making thoughtful food choices. The market’s three central aims are to educate people about the benefits of eating fresh foods grown close to home, make good food available to people who otherwise have limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables and strengthen community through supporting local farmers and producers.

Because education is at the heart of the market’s mission, food tastings and cooking demonstrations are weekly staples. Vendors are encouraged to offer samples of unfamiliar products, such as kohlrabi, raw milk cheeses and all-natural granola bars. Additionally, each week the market features in-season fruits and veggies in on-site cooking demonstrations. All of the main ingredients in these dishes will be available for sale at the market, and we’ll share recipe cards to make at-home preparation a breeze. This week, customers can prepare to become enamored with an easy and affordable asparagus, kale, and chickpea pesto.

The YMCA has made several strategic choices in order to make good food (ahem, homemade pesto?!) accessible to all people. First, the market’s evening hours (3:00 - 7:00 p.m.) make it an easy stop for many nine-to-fivers commuting home.

Additionally, the market’s Westside location attracts many nearby residents whose proximity to fresh food is otherwise limited.

Third, we acknowledge that affordability, and not only proximity, can be a barrier to getting healthy food on the plates of those who most need it. As such, every vendor at the YMCA Farmers Market accepts every form of food assistance benefit for which his or her products are eligible.

Lastly, the YMCA Farmers Market makes shopping for food a fun and gratifying experience. With a car full of sweaty kids, a backpack full of unread pages, or a headache from too many hours at the office, hurrying through a crowded, florescent-lit supermarket can seem daunting. The open-air market encourages strolling, having conversations, and enjoying the process of shopping for the very thing that sustains us: the food we eat.

This year, vendors will offer a variety of products so large that customers can check off most of the items on their grocery lists. The market will have nearly every fruit and vegetable Michigan’s sun coaxes from the soil, homemade breads and jams, honey, fresh-popped kettle corn, grass-fed meats and cheeses and eggs.

Join us for our opening celebration!

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