• Susan Poirier

Year-around local food growing in West Michigan

Updated: Jan 7

There is no substitute for fresh-picked local produce as the focus of our daily diet. Complemented with exercise, it is the most proactive way to improve health and wellness.

Before industrial agriculture and big box stores, it was the norm to eat local produce when in season and buy from local farms rather than food shipped across country or internationally, losing nutrients and flavor.

We are no longer limited to the 24/7 mega-supermarket that claims to have everything we need under one roof. Even if this seems the convenient choice, in reality it means eating produce that has been shipped hundreds if not thousands of miles and treated with chemicals. For example, tomatoes are picked when still green, sprayed with chemicals for the lengthy transport so they’ll artificially ripen later—resulting in a flavorless, tough-skinned tomato with questionable safety.

Making a conscious choice to reconnect with the food we eat every day means knowing where and how it is grown. Now there are choices for fresh, locally-grown food throughout all four seasons in West Michigan and at least eighteen CSA’s (community supported agriculture) that are organic, CNG (certified naturally grown) and/or grown without chemicals with most pick-up schedules running June through October (a few stretch the season May through December). At least two CSA’s operate through the winter months.

Schedule time to shop at the local organic stores, order online and pick-up your produce ready-to-go, visit the farmers markets, and consider purchasing a weekly CSA allotment—and you’ll have an abundance of locally-grown vegetables on your dinner table while helping small farmers thrive and keeping food dollars in the local economy.

Fulton Street Farm Market is now open year-around, located in the heart of Grand Rapids at Fulton Street and Fuller Avenue.

Harvest Health Food sells all organic produce at three store locations: Eastern Avenue, Cascade Road, and Hudsonville.

Farm Link provides an online source for local food; order once per week and your order is ready for pick-up on Tuesdays.

Veggie Van brings produce to eleven locations weekly throughout Grand Rapids, often where access to fresh food is limited.

Urban Roots of Grand Rapids has a community store open year-around with local West Michigan produce and grains, pastas, and staple items.

Over twenty-five CSA’s offer diverse allotments of fresh greens, vegetables, fruit, and herbs, with weekly drop-offs throughout Grand Rapids.

There’s also growing interest in backyard vegetable gardens designed for small-spaces and even balconies.

Americans are becoming aware of the true price of the industrial food system, including health risks from chemicals and processed food, a greater chance of food and water contamination from industrial agricultural run-off (as with CAFO’s—concentrated animal feeding operations), loss of habitat and wetlands, and greenhouse gas emissions. The pervasive use of neonicotinoids and glyphosate (Roundup) continues to poison native birds, butterflies, and bees, threatening our food supply because so many fruit crops depend on pollination.

The industrial farm model has dominated American food production for decades with chemical-intensive methods growing monocultures such as corn, wheat, and soybeans. While at one time this may have been applauded as progress to feed millions of Americans and export abroad, it has come at a high price to our health and environment.

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