This post comes to you as the second in a series on Edison residents at the Kalamazoo Farmers Market (KFM). Throughout late spring and into the summer, I spoke with Edison neighbors kind enough to take a short break from their shopping activities.
My first conversation, on a Saturday in mid-May, was with Rosalba “Rosa” Roman and her five children. Rosa decided to make her trip to the market an outing for the kids, taking the opportunity to buy a few things, depending on what she happened to see along the way. I walked with Rosa and the family to the smoothie truck, parked at the back of the market, taking the opportunity to ask a few questions.
“I’m concerned with healthy eating and what’s in our food” said Rosa. “I have a raised bed in my backyard”, located on Stockbridge near the market. “I learned to garden from my parents and from looking online [on how to make raised beds].” Later that same morning, I saw Rosa and her children once again, this time loaded down with seedlings hanging from the handlebars of the double stroller in which her two littlest ones rode. “I didn’t know we could buy these here!” she shared happily.
Later, on a Saturday in June, I spoke with LaTosha Glenn, who shops at the market for her grandmother, a resident of the Washington Square Co-op apartments for seniors. Latosha’s grandmother, who will be 90 years-old in October, likes to cook up the fresh greens - mustard, turnip, and kale – that LaTosha brings her. Green beans, squash, and later in the fall grapes are other favorites.
LaTosha’s son Malcolm joined her for shopping that day, and he especially likes the market’s granola and cheeses, as well as the food trucks. For LaTosha, who actually lives in Kalamazoo’s Eastside Neighborhood, it’s the Amish butter, fruits, vegetables, and the assortment of pastries she can find at the KFM. She appreciates the access to fresh foods, many free from pesticides, and that her EBT card [Electronic Benefit Transfer] can be used to receive tokens – via Michigan’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- to purchase the fresh foods she and her family so enjoy. Further, notes LaTosha, “People are nice, and I feel welcome.”
Most recently, I spoke with Pam Burpee, who has lived on Marketplace Boulevard, located just across the street from the KFM, for the last two years. Previously, Pam drove to the market, where she noted parking and accessibility posed a real challenge, the latter due to closely parked cars that do not allow mobility devices to maneuver. Pam uses a wheelchair for mobility herself, and thus she brings special insight to the accessibility issue, a perspective she generously shares as part of the KFM Advisory Board and the new market site design team as well.
Pam and I met at the market for our conversation back in early August, where we sat at the picnic tables located to the west of the central office. “Will you be shopping at the market today?” I asked. “I can’t not shop”, Pam countered with a laugh. She comes to the KFM for the “wonderful fresh produce…cheeses, breads.” In fact, she can do all her shopping -- with the exception of a few milk products -- right at the market. But she also comes for “the sense of community…people just hang out and enjoy other’s company, music, and the food.”
For the future KFM “I want to see better accessibility all around for everyone”, notes Pam. “Under the canopy, at certain times, it’s a real problem for people, not only with mobility devices, but with strollers or walking with more than one or two children”. Wider spaces are needed. “I hope for the long term there will be a [robust] market in progress all year long…a sustainable venue for the next 50 years to grow and be successful, with access for everyone.” Access can also mean ability to buy food, and Pam – like LaTosha before her -- noted the importance of the SNAP program, which allows low income individuals and families to use their EBT cards to purchase fresh foods.
As we have seen, Edison residents contribute a vital economic, culinary, and nutritional force to the Kalamazoo Farmers Market, as vendors, as workers, as customers, as neighborhood activists. If you enjoyed this story, check out our first story on Edison neighbors at the market, featuring La Guatemalteca Tacos – the “taco truck”
…and please stay tuned for our third and final post, coming up soon, on Edison residents who work and volunteer at the market. See you then…
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