Buying and eating local produce and goods is a great way for students to support local farmers and businesses. East Lansing is home to a couple of exceptional farmers markets and stands both on and off MSU’s campus. Exploring your local farmers markets is a great way to get to know some of the hardworking residents of the area and to find the best fresh ingredients to put on the table for dinner.
Not only does supporting local farmers markets and farm stands support the community, but it is also a way to support your overall health. Food from local farmers markets are widely considered to be fuller in flavor than coming from the grocery store, since they are harvested when they are ripe and ready to be eaten. Grocery stores, on the other hand, pick their produce before ripening, in order for it to still be fresh when they are shipped around the country. Another thing to remember is that local products will not have the pesticides or additives in them that go into foods that are mass-produced. Since the products are coming straight from Michigan soil to your home, they don’t need the chemicals added to them in order to keep them fresh.
The MSU Student Organic Farm Stand gives students the opportunity to buy fresh produce without needing to step off campus. Every Thursday, beginning the first week of April and going through the end of October, students can find the MSU Student Organic Farm Stand spread out on Farm Lane on campus, right in front of the Auditorium and across the street from Bessey Hall. In the spring you can find food such as asparagus, spinach, eggs and more. Summer is the perfect time for summer squash, corn and green beans. To wrap up the season in the fall, the farm stand spotlights their pumpkins, popcorn and a large assortment of berries and other fruit.
“I love the [MSU] farm stand!” said Lupe Bryan, a MSU alumnus living close to campus. “It’s so convenient for students, they don’t even have to leave campus. Even after I moved off campus, I used to stop after class and pick up stuff for dinner later.”
The stand is run by MSU Student Organic Farmers, and the farm itself is always looking for new student volunteers. If students want to get involved in learning about farming and growing produce, all they have to do it go online to apply. Not only is it a great opportunity to meet other students and get involved on campus, but also the skills learned working on the farm are ones that students can put toward starting their own garden at home.
Another spot on campus to find local food products is of course the MSU Dairy Store! Many students stop by the MSU Dairy store for their truly delicious ice cream and smoothies. Produced right on campus at the Dairy Plant, the ice cream from the MSU Dairy Store is one-of-a-kind here in East Lansing. Not only is it delicious, but it also loves to represent college teams, with ice cream flavors such as “Dantonio’s Double Fudge Fake” and “Buckeye Blitz.”
“Oh yeah, the Dairy Store is great,” said Timothy Bowyer, another MSU alumnus, “it’s by far the best ice cream you can get around here.”
Students can visit both locations, either in Anthony Hall or in the MSU Union for a nice cold treat or even lunch, as the Dairy Store also offers soups and grilled cheese sandwiches made with MSU Dairy Store cheese. In fact, the Dairy Store sells its products at more than just those locations. MSU Dairy Store products are also used on the menu at the MSU food trucks on campus, such as on the smoked cheddar cheeseburger and the food truck grilled cheese.
Just off campus is the East Lansing Farmer’s Market, which is set up each Sunday during the summer months in Valley Court Park just off campus and close to Grand River. Katherine Healy, a graduate student at MSU studying marketing research, is a frequent customer at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market.
“I try to go almost every week during the summer,” Healy said. “It’s so good, way better than anything you can find at the grocery store.”
The East Lansing Farmer’s Market opened in 2009, and has been a hit in East Lansing ever since then. With close to 30 vendors each year, this farmers market has much to offer residents of the East Lansing area. From crisp produce to organic chicken and freshly baked bread, everything at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market is 100 percent Michigan-made. It is required by the market that each vendor makes their own products or grows their own produce. The high quality of the products sold at the market hasn’t gone without notice, as the markets draw in around 1,000 customers on a weekly basis during the season.
“Farmers markets always have the best tomatoes, and that usually means the best salsa too,” Healy continued.
More than that, many of the vendors that sell products like salsa or dips offer samples, which always make the trip just that much better. While many vendors at any farmers market are cash only for payment, the East Lansing Farmer’s Market also accepts SNAP/Bridge cards throughout the market.
Luckily for students, many of these locations open up in June and run through the end of October, and there is still plenty of time left to buy fresh fruit and vegetables grown right here in Michigan once you know where to go. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can always head a little west of campus as well, into downtown Lansing to see what they have to offer in terms of local produce. The Allen Farmers Market is a year-round farmers market that is held indoors on Wednesdays inside of Allen Market Place. Another exciting option is all the way downtown on the lawn of the Capitol building itself, where a farmers market is held only three times near the end of the summer, consisting of vendors from all over the state. Either way, summer and early fall is a great time to get outside and stock up your pantry or fridge with fresh, local produce.
Kelsey Hannaford is a senior professional writing major specializing in editing and publishing. When she isn’t in class or at work, you can usually find her on a yoga mat, watching Netflix with her cat or curled up somewhere with a large cup of coffee and a book.
Tags: September 2016