Summertime in Southwest Michigan means different things to different people. For some, it means lazy afternoons on the beach; for others, it’s about weekend festivals and outdoor concerts; and for a few, it simply means the onset of a sticky humidity and a renewed appreciation for air conditioning.
But for a large majority of “Michiganders”, summertime also means fresh, local produce, roadside fruit stands, and farmers markets—and Holland’s is one of the best. Over fifty vendors get together twice a week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) to show off their colorful, homegrown produce. Michigan is famous for the variety of produce that it grows each year. In season now are a variety of spring greens, loaded with nutritious vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Additional “hot crops” include sweet cherries, strawberries, snow peas, beets, and much, much more.
And that’s just the beginning; still to come are the many varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onions, watermelon, blackberries, and (my favorite) sweet corn! The Holland Farmers Market aims to bring the freshest, tastiest fruits and veggies – as well as homemade jams, specialty breads, artisan cheeses, and free-range eggs – straight from the farm to your table.
I asked Dave Skinner of Skinner Homestead Acres what he recommends visitors do at the Market. “Walk the whole market before purchasing anything. Make sure you see the whole market first.” Dave grew up farming on his grandfather’s land; Skinner Homestead Acres has been a vendor at the Market for over 30 years. “It’s a good thing for people to buy locally when it’s in season. People don’t realize that food is seasonal,” he says. It also “gets you closer to who produces your food – people need to know where [their food] comes from.”
Chris and Julie Boestma, of Boetsma Produce, have attended the Market for 12 years. Julie says, “We like to serve the local community with fresh-grown produce. Some people aren’t able to grow such a variety and it’s nice to be able to provide them that.” She enjoys getting to know the people who come to the market every week.
But all veggies aside for a moment—there are so many more reasons to explore the market. After all, you can get fruits and vegetables at your local grocery store. What you can’t get at a grocery store is an in-person cooking lesson from a top-notch chef. Every Saturday at 10:00 AM, a different local chef demonstrates how to use fresh, seasonal ingredients in every day cooking. Don’t know what to do with asparagus? Bored with your every day salad? Attend a chef’s demonstration to discover new ways to make fast, fresh, and fabulous meals cheaply and healthfully.
There’s something in it for the kids, too. From 10:00 to 12:00 on Wednesdays, kids are invited to participate in fun, educational activities. These range from creating art out of vegetables and painting “en plain air” (in the open air) like the great 19th century masters, to discovering how yarn is made and learning how to care for baby chicks.
It’s good clean fun for everyone at the Holland Farmer’s Market. Check it out Wednesdays and Saturdays between the hours of 8:00 and 4:00, at 150 West 8th Street in downtown Holland, Michigan. Dress for the weather – and don’t forget to bring your reusable shopping basket!
More information about the Farmer’s Market, including a list of what’s in season, kids’ activities, the Saturday Chef Series, can be found at www.hollandfarmersmarket.com.