Recent headlines are buzzing with great news for grocery shoppers in Detroit. We love our farmers markets, but we also need brick and mortar shops with staple ingredients, open throughout the week. Luckily, locals are stepping up to expand the options for healthful and delicious food in the city.
Long-time Milan, Michigan farmers, Vicki and Tom Zilke, know how to grow good food. Turns out, they also know how to cook. Since June 2018 when Zilke Farm Kitchen opened for business, Vicki has been creating simple home-cooked meal kits and prepared food in Milan’s new retail space.
Walking through one of the six Tom’s Food Markets locations in Northwest Michigan, you will find the produce section is piled high with best of the season. During the harvest season, displays are piled high with sweet corn, pints of sweet cherries, bushels of Bardenhagen Farms apples, and local squashes. However, Tom’s Food Markets is proudly dedicated to supporting local producers all year long, not just during the peak of summer.
In 1946, Tom and Eva Deering founded Deering’s Market on 11th St in Traverse City. Originally, it served as a small corner market specializing in meat products near downtown. Fifteen years later, in 1961, Tom’s Food Market’s first full sized grocery store was built on the west side of town. Since then, Tom’s Food Markets has grown into six full size grocery stores throughout the region. Despite their expansion, Tom’s has continued its focus on supporting the Traverse City area community.
Michigan winters, particularly those here in the UP region, don’t allow for much production. Even those individuals who have been able to bridge the gap with season extension find themselves unable to do much in the blistering months of January and February. So, what are our local farmers up to at times like these? Catching up on the Netflix binging they missed? Creating sleep patterns that almost replicate those of hibernation? Read books by the fire, hot chocolate in hand?
When a small group of individuals driven by the idea of bringing a farmers market to Les Cheneaux first met, they envisioned a Friday night tourist attraction in the summers, and were able to secure an economic development grant from the Les Cheneaux Community Foundation to jumpstart the market. They didn’t expect such a strong community response that the market could go year-round. The market— now on Sundays— has become a vibrant attraction and business incubator in the Les Cheneaux community. Farmers and makers alike have found the market is a vehicle for expanding sales, fine tuning products, and even launching “bricks and mortar” businesses.
Community can often be a word people just toss around, but when the community literally owns your business, there is no taking it lightly. Oryana Community Co-op was an idea devised on the back porch of a home in Traverse City. It came from a small group of passionate community members looking to start a buying club and have control over where their food came from. That buying club started in 1973, and is now a 10,000 square foot, $17 million-a-year business that still lives by the founding principles of quality, accountability, sustainability, and localism.
For locals, Foods For Living is a landmark. Maybe they come in for the Lansing area’s only all-organic produce section, the coffee samples, and the friendly staff. (We’d like to think it’s the latter, if we’re being honest. And we are. That’s another reason people keep coming back, probably—honesty.) Perhaps they come for our massive supplement section, and the vitamin and herb experts who run it. Many just come for the live music and the freshly-prepared deli food. Where else can you reliably get amazing carrot cake and listen to some bluegrass on lunch? Regardless of what brings them through the door, they’ve been coming for twenty years, and we are so, so humbled and grateful to be celebrating with our East Lansing family.
Oryana has been a proponent of local food since its inception in 1973. As farmer Jim Schwantes of Sweeter Song Farm said, “Before there was a local food movement, they were the local food movement.” And Oryana takes it an important step further by prioritizing organic, local food. At this time of year, our produce department is bursting with local, organic vegetables and fruits and one of our favorites is zucchini.
Stepping into The Flying Moose, in downtown Marquette, feels like what stepping into a store probably felt like 100 years ago, except now there is kombucha on tap. The shelves are filled with spices, wines, syrups, and skateboards.