Last month I took a group of Planet Blue Student Leaders, and other self-proclaimed "sustainability geeks", to the Detroit Eastern Market. Despite the chill in the air, the Market was filled with people of all ages. The students and I ducked in and out of each of the sheds, amazed at the variety of produce and goods at the market. The smell of hot cider and coffee filled the air. I met a vendor selling maple syrup who explained to me all of the basics: the difference between Grade A and Grade B, which trees are tapped, and that syrup really looks like water coming out of the tree. He told me how it is reduced down to a sweet syrup with a little bit of heat and a lot of time. I started to feel badly for taking up so much of his time, but then I noticed that even amid the hustle and bustle, lots of vendors were willing to take the time to answer questions about their products.
Next, we got tour from the Detroit Kitchen Connect Coordinator, Anika Grose. The Detroit Kitchen Connect is a program that helps young businesses grow by providing a clean, commercial space for them to create their own products at a low cost. The program’s goal is to promote community while encouraging small businesses. Anika spoke to us about the importance of building financial stability and part of that is buying from local Michigan vendors. The Detroit Eastern Market is an all around win; supporting local vendors helps the local economy, it is a place for community relationships and it is a place where residents can buy local, healthy produce for their families. And there is plenty to choose from- the five sheds, both indoor and outdoor, were packed with, as Anika calls it, "veg" or produce. Over one hundred vendors in peak season sell an array of items- from Michigan grown squash, and decadent chocolates, to maple syrup and savory meat selections. As for myself, I walked away with a delicata squash, zucchini, garlic and some roasted peanuts for snacking.
Our last stop was a tour of all the murals scattered throughout the market. Each of the murals had a strong message, many relevant to Detroit, and many of them related to food. The murals were an excellent way to end the tour and to keep in mind that the Detroit Eastern Market is more than just a place to find your food for the week, but it is a place of community, conversation and growth.
If you're interesting in going, the Detroit Eastern Market is open year-round on Saturdays from 6am to 4pm. The winter is a perfect time to visit to avoid the large summer crowds. When you go be sure to dress warmly and don't forget your cash!
Emily Compton is a Masters student in the School of Public Health studying Nutrition and Dietetics. She is also an intern for MDining where she can pair her passion for sustainable foods with her passion for nutrition. Aside from those passions, Emily likes cats, clay and a good cup of joe.