What’s green, looks like lettuce, and now appears at the Michigan Union, U-go’s, Wolverine Towers and other locations each once a week? The University’s new M Farmers Markets fresh produce. From strawberries to kale to celery, in-season vegetables and fruit will be available from M Farmers Market at various campus locations.
M Farmers Markets is the result joint collaboration between MHealthy, CSG, the University’s Sustainability Initiative and Michigan Dining. Community Supported Agriculture, a new program in which faculty and staff can buy shares from local farms and pick up ready-made boxes of produce once a week, will begin working with these various groups toward creating a wider variety and increased number of available fruits and vegetables.
According to the M Farmers Market’s schedule, fruit and vegetable deliveries are between 11a.m. to 1p.m. on Mondays at the Michigan Union, Thursdays at the University Hospital Courtyard, and Fridays at Pierpont Commons. The market also delivers on select Tuesdays at Wolverine Tower and at the North Campus Research Complex.
Michigan Dining contacted Zilke Vegetable Farm in 2011, one of the farms partnering with the University to bring more vegetables and fruits to campus, with hopes that the farm could receive the necessary certification in order to sell their produce on campus.
Vicky Zilke, one of the owners of the vegetable farm, said the farm works hard to provide a variety of crops for the market.
“We are able to grow virtually everything — or, at least, a large number of products. So my husband and I grow a wide variety of crops that grow in Michigan. So I will bring what’s in season,” said Vicky Zilke.
Keith Soster, director of Student Engagement for Michigan Dining, said education about sustainability is a large aspect of the M Farmers Markets.
Soster also said when the program was introduced in 2011, assessments revealed students liked the idea, but wanted a greater variety of options and for the produce to be available more often.
“Students over the last couple of years have talked about food insecurity or food deserts around our area, so it made it more important to have produce available and affordable,” Soster said.
Christine Rogers, a rising sophomore studying Biopsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (BCN), is a Michigan dining ambassador for Fireside Café at Pierpont Commons and works behind the U-go’s Zilke M Farmers Market produce stand.
Rogers said one of her responsibilities while working the stand is educating visitors about sustainability.
“I’m supposed to stand over there and tell people about Michigan Housing and greener living ,” she said. “We have water bottle refill stations, we use LED light bulbs, and there are things that are on campus like classes and campus farms and different programs. And these are things that other people can do — like turning off the water while brushing your teeth. Just small things like that.”
Barbara Hagan,a University sustainability representative, said similar sustainability programs will continue in the future.
“We have a direct buying relationship with the Zilke Farms to put into the (residential) halls,” said Hagan. “We don’t want to add on a bunch of famers and then have nobody get business from us that’s profitable, so we’re going maybe a farmer at a time and making sure we can absorb all of their crops and make it profitable for them.”