Ever since the American Farmland Trust started its America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest, I’ve been tracking the Top 20 farmers markets in the country, especially the large market group in which my local Holland market is categorized. (As of today, it’s ranked #19!) But another local market on the list, Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been holding a higher rank: #3 as of today’s post!
Many of my friends who live in Grand Rapids rave about this market–established in 1922–and, although I’ve been there before, I haven’t paid a visit since I started this blog. So Bill and I headed there today–one of the hottest days of the year–to check it out. It may have been a bit sparse due to the heat and time of day (noonish), but I know it’s usually packed.
There are several characteristics I like about this market even more than the Holland Farmers Market: It’s open four days a week (May through Christmas), it has a more urban atmosphere, and you can pay by credit card. This latter feature is such a valuable asset, especially for many people who live in the city where it’s difficult to get to an ATM, or who simply don’t carry cash in this debit-card-friendly world. (In fact, I remember saying to Bill on my way there, “Remind me to get cash on the way home so I’ll have it for the market in Holland tomorrow.”)
All you do is bring your credit card to the stand at the office and, for a swipe, the cashier will give you “wooden nickels”, or tokens, in increments of $5 to spend at the market. Holders of a Michigan Bridge Card (an Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, card used in lieu of food stamps) may also use this service.
There are other ways to pay at the market, too.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program): Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards can be swiped at the office for “wooden nickels”–red $1 tokens that can be redeemed for produce and other foods from participating vendors at the market.
Project Fresh: Many vendors accept Project Fresh coupons from this educational program that provides eligible participants with coupons to purchase locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmer’s markets.
Another great feature is that many of the vendors participate in the Fulton Street Certified 100% Homegrown Program, a voluntary program designed to help customers assure that the produce offered at a certified vendor is not only local, but also homegrown by the vendor.
Here’s a sampling of what’s in season and available at the Fulton Street Farmers Market right now.
I really I wish I lived midway between both the Fulton Street Farmers Market and the Holland Farmers Market because I like many aspects of both. The urban atmosphere is a draw for me because I like being in the city, but I do enjoy the expansive parking facilities in Holland. While the Fulton Street market is more compact, the Holland market has lots of space to roam. Many of the vendors go to both markets, however, and much of the produce for sale is similar.
My gas-conserving approach to driving tells me to stick with Holland unless I’m combining errands for a trip to Grand Rapids. And, frankly, I’m just not a morning person, which is when you get the best pick of the produce. It’s hard enough for me to make it to the 10:00 Chef Series demo at the Holland market on Saturday mornings!