MDining, CSG Offer Expanded Farmers Markets

Keith Soster
Release Date: 

Farmer's Market

“People want to be sustainable, they want to know what’s going in their bodies, and they seem to enjoy interacting with the people who grow their food in this way.”

—Vicki Zilke

Farmers Markets Expands to Fall

Ah, farm-fresh veggies: one of the delicious high points of summer. As fall rolls around, Michigan Dining and Central Student Government will help extend the availability of those delicious nutritious treats by hosting the 7th annual M Farmers Markets at the University of Michigan. The event will take place twice each on Central Campus and North Campus:

  • September 14th: South Ingalls Mall, 10-2PM
  • September 28th: The Grove, North Campus, 10-2PM
  • October 12th: South Ingalls Mall 10-2PM
  • October 26th: The Grove, North Campus, 10-2PM

Fresh fruits, veggies and other locally sourced food items will be available for purchase from three local farms and U-M's student-run Campus Farm.

The significant part about M Farmers Markets -- in addition to celebrating healthy eating and sustainable living -- is that farmers markets are important part of the community for economic, social and environmental vitality. Farmers markets serve not only as a way for people to purchase locally grown produce but also as a chance for them to connect with others within their communities.

Vicki Zilke, of Zilke Farms, which will sell produce at the farm, says she enjoys the partnership.

“We’ve been working with U of M for awhile now on the farms, and we enjoy being able to offer people on campus fresh, wholesome food,” she says. Vicki also says she has witnessed a decided increase in people choosing this healthy option. “People want to be sustainable, they want to know what’s going in their bodies, and they seem to enjoy interacting with the people who grow their food in this way. It’s a fun experience.”

And buying from farmers markets helps reduce our environmental footprint. Across the country, more than 85% of farmers market vendors travel fewer than 50 miles to sell at a the markets, according to the USDA. That’s true of our local vendors, as well. Compare that to most supermarkets where seven to fourteen days can go by between the time produce is picked and when it becomes available to shoppers. In that time, fruits and vegetables travel, on average, more than 1,200 miles before reaching grocery store shelves.

That’s a lot of miles.

The upcoming M Farmers Markets are part of the university’s goal to have 20 percent of the food served on­ campus provided by farmers within a 250­ mile radius. More than 30 Michigan farmers and suppliers currently provide the university with meat, milk, eggs, fruits, vegetables and more.

Participating in the fall on-campus markets are:

Zilke Vegetable Farm from Milan ­­ -- Vicki and Tom Zilke started a five-­acre side project in 2008, and it has blossomed into into a 40-­acre sustainable farming business that yields greens, zucchini, tomatoes, corn, green beans, cantaloupe and watermelon. On the 27-acre Zilke Vegetable Farm in Milan, she grows a variety of organic vegetables which she sells at a roadside stand, the Ypsilanti Farmer's Market, and to Community-Supported Agriculture investors.

Lesser Farms from Dexter ­­ -- Dale Lesser’s grandfather bought the property in the early 1900s and the family has been farming it ever since. With over 1,200 acres of farmland, the Lessers grow corn, soybeans, pumpkins and apples. This old-fashioned, working family farm offers honey, soaps, and eggs year round.

Todosciuk Farms & Greenhouses from Howell ­­-- Jim and Tina Todosciuk are devoted vegetable farmers who have been running their 45­-acre farm for two decades. They also deliver fresh produce (beans, broccoli, cucumbers and squash) to the University of Michigan Hospital and U­M’s dining halls and run a Community Shared Agriculture program (CSA).

Campus Farm --The Campus Farm is a year-round, student-run greenhouse and farm space that was founded by the University of Michigan Sustainable Food program (UMSFP) and the Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum. More than 20 to 50 students volunteer at the farm each week, engaging in hands-on learning about sustainable farming, the environment, equality, and issues of justice surrounding food. The Campus Farm was able to begin supplying its produce to MDining after attaining its USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) food safety certification in June.

So never fear -- fresh veggies and fruit will be available on campus throughout the fall. Make sure to stop by and say “hello” to our local farmers!

Keith Soster is the Director of Student Engagement for MDining. At the core of Keith’s work is outreach, putting him in constant with students, suppliers and campus stakeholders with a focus on advancing initiatives for a greener, healthier campus. He is responsible for student and community connections both on and off campus, and serves as the sustainability lead for Student Life.