Celebrating Farm to School Month with Pop-up Farmers Markets!

Crisp apples, pumpkins, fresh cut flowers, and rainbow carrots are a few items that crowded the gym of seven elementary schools this month. Also included were guest chickens, various educational activities, smoothie bikes, and pumpkin soup samples. Students purchased flowers for their mothers, pumpkins for Halloween, and loved sampling kohlrabi and pea shoots from 9 Bean Rows Farmstead & CSA.

In celebration of National Farm to School Month, Taste the Local Difference partnered with Traverse Bay Intermediate School District’s Farm to School Program, and their AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers, to participate in three established school markets and host four new Pop-up Farmers’ Markets throughout the Northwestern Michigan region.

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Two of the markets were hosted by Michigan State University Extension, one at Suttons Bay Elementary School, as well as the 11th annual Leland School Farmers Market.

In addition, we participated in the 2nd Annual Pathfinder School Farmers Market that TLD first helped develop in 2016. Students shopped with their classmates and 9 Bean Rows Farmstead & CSA organized a “guess the weight of the pumpkin” contest as a school fundraiser. The art teacher used her creativity to incorporate an educational lesson by purchasing cabbage to create paintings with in the classroom.

TLD and TBAISD organized and held Pop-Up Farmers Markets at Mill Creek Elementary, Buckley Community School, Glen Lake Elementary, and Northport Public School. MSU-E eagerly joined to help locate vendors and bring the always-popular smoothie bike!

AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers working with the Farm to School Program at TBAISD recruited schools to participate in the markets. They also hosted nutrition education activities at two markets, gave samples of apple salad and pumpkin soup, and played “tried it, liked it, loved it” with the kids! Their efforts were essential to the overall success of the markets.

The students learned about local agriculture, met their local farmers, learned about healthy eating, and used math and communication skills. It was more than effective; we could tell by the number of students that made glowing comments. We thought we’d better share some of the heartening and hysterical responses from the students to speak about the success.

One student yelled out, “This is the biggest purchase I have everstudent testimonial - purchasing a large kohlrabi made,” after purchasing a gigantic kohlrabi from 9 Bean Rows.

Another student said, “Do we get to do this again next year? I love going to the farmers’ market!”

Other comments included:

“I bought a flower for my mom, my teacher, and one for myself.”

“I can’t wait to grow up and be a flower farmer.”

“The pea shoots are so delicious, why haven’t I had these before!”

“This is the first time my parents let me shop on my own and make my own purchase and I love it.”

The Michigan Health Endowment Fund, which works to improve the health and wellness of Michigan residents, with a special focus on children and seniors, provided TLD with a grant for  “Building a Child-Focused Health and Wellness Culture in Northern Michigan.” This included funding to provide teachers with vouchers to spend on produce at the markets. The funding allowed teachers to model behavior and lead by example in purchasing fresh produce for the classroom. All teachers Pre-K through 7th grade received between $10 and $20, depending on the school size. Several teachers purchased apples and made apple sauce as a class, others bought ingredients to take the market into the classroom and make vegetable soup.

where ever1,251 vouchers were distributed to 88 Pre-K through 7th grade teachers at the seven markets and 1.146 vouchers were spent on local agricultural products! Over 3,000 students, including middle and high school students participated in the markets. The teachers were thankful to have the opportunity to purchase produce for their class. It gave them the opportunity to create a “lesson on local agriculture” after visiting the market.

The response to these markets was overwhelmingly positive from administrators, teachers, students, families, and farmers! There was a wide range of engagement in the markets among schools, and we discovered not one size fits all when planning a Pop-up Farmers Market.

And, what’s a Farmers Market without our farmers? We are thankful, appreciative, and overwhelmed with joy by the efforts that these farmers put in. Twenty farmers and producers volunteered for one or more markets. All came enthusiastically prepared with student portioned and priced items starting at 25 cents and ranging to $5, educational tools, and taste tests. Although the list is long, they are all worth mentioning.

Our greatest thanks to:

9 Bean Rows Farmstead & CSA, Ann’s Chutney, Bakker’s AcresBay Bread Co. Bee JoyfulBellaire BloomsCarefree Farm, Cherry Beach OrchardsColdwell Farms, Copper River Farm, Daybreak DreamfarmHowling Moon Farm King OrchardsLeelanau Lavender BreezesOut of the Woods Polish Heritage FarmSpring Hollow FarmsTLC HydroponicsUndertoe Farms Warren Orchards-Between the Bays

Given the positive reaction from all parties involved, TBAISD and TLD cannot wait to host more markets! We envision a beautiful thriving school market where students can learn about their community farmers. We hope to grow these markets to include fundraisers for the schools, classroom crafts for sale, and a gym full of vendors!

Maybe a winter market? Maybe a spring market? Stay tuned for more Pop-Up Farmers Markets!

Bailey Samp is the Local Food Coordinator and Events Manager for NW Michigan. She worked diligently with TBAISD AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteers to coordinate these markets. Contact her if you are interested in hosting a Pop-up Farmers Market at [email protected]