Sometimes we have a good idea, it works out well so we branch out and use that same idea elsewhere. Actively promoting our Michigan State University Extension programs at the Detroit Eastern Market proved successful. We had a great reaction and so when the opportunity came to join the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, we were ready and excited to be a part of it.
In the June13 Spotlight, I mentioned plans to house MSU Extension staff in office space in the new indoor market. The plans are now a reality. Community food systems educators Kendra Wills and Garrett Ziegler are officially moved in as of Sept. 1 and are working on site full time. Diane Smith, innovation counselor from the MSU Product Center Food-Ag-Bio, joins them one to two days a week.
Our presence at the market is a great opportunity to educate the public and establish relationships with people who produce local food as well as those who buy it. The way I think of it is although market shoppers may not expect to see MSU Extension at the market, when they do see us, they immediately “get it.” In a way, it’s a place where we belong because it’s a place where people are seeking information along with their food, and we can help them whether it’s in providing nutrition, cooking, food safety or gardening information and education. And we want them to associate us with receiving access to dependable, unbiased, research-based information concerning food as well as other issues that affect their families and their communities.
The market has both an indoor market open every day and an outdoor market open two mornings and one evening a week. The indoor market officially opened on Labor Day, Sept. 2. According to WZZM ABC News, nearly 30,000 people showed up for the grand opening.
We’ve already been active in the outdoor market since it opened May 4, promoting our Michigan Fresh campaign and educating about healthy eating, and safe food preparation and preservation.
In addition, we’ve used the indoor facilities for educational sessions. In the Aug. 15 Spotlight, I wrote about two health and nutrition educators, Jeannie Nichols and Rita Klavinski, who facilitated a ServSafe class to 23 participants.
We intend to continue offering educational programs using the indoor facilities, which include demonstration and teaching kitchens, greenhouses and a commercial kitchen incubator.
Jeannie will hold a Cooking for Crowds session on Oct. 9. Cooking for Crowds is an educational program focusing on food safety for nonprofit groups who prepare food for their members or for the public as fundraisers.
Jeannie and Diane will co-teach “Starting a Successful Cottage Food Business in Michigan” on Nov. 7. The program combines the business and food safety aspects of preparing and selling cottage foods safely and successfully.
Extension educator Glenda Kilpatrick reports that Kent County 4-H program coordinators Kristi Bowers and Christine Mickelson have been offering youth programs on Tuesdays at the market as well.
Expect many more programs to come.