Farmers market wins $75K grant from feds


The Muskegon Farmers Market says it’s “more than a farmers market — it's an experience.” Courtesy Muskegon Farmers Market

A farmers market in the region will use USDA funding to support children’s programming and increase awareness of locally grown produce.

The Muskegon Farmers Market said this week that it has received a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through the Farmers Market Promotion Program to expand the market's Power of Produce Club, or POP Club.

The market is owned and operated by the city of Muskegon.

Power of Produce Club

In 2014, the Muskegon market implemented the Power of Produce Club, which is a nationally recognized program empowering children ages 5-12 to make healthy food choices.

Lori Gomez-Payne, market master, and Renae Hesselink, project manager of the POP Club, indicated the USDA grant is “pretty focused on the Power of Produce kids.”

Hesselink also indicated that with an enrollment of 1,000, the POP Club is touching a "fraction" of the children in Muskegon County, and the grant will provide an “opportunity to keep the program’s name in front of kids all winter, by offering cooking classes utilizing produce.”

The program runs from mid June through October, and the younger participants receive a shopping bag, a POP Club button and $2 in wooden tokens each time they attend the market to spend on fresh fruits, vegetables and food plants.

“We require parent/guardian involvement, and we have experienced from the past two years that when the kids are coming to participate in the program, it becomes a family affair and many times both parents show up,” said Gomez-Payne and Hesselink in a statement.

The Muskegon Farmers Market will also coordinate family and child-only educational opportunities, along with adult-only cooking classes and educational opportunities not supported by the grant, Gomez-Payne and Hesselink said.

The grant

The $75,000 grant will also be used to implement a marketing campaign focused on farm tours, provide technical assistance for farmers who are interested in launching farm tours and help facilitate a winter’s farmers market.

On Oct. 2, the USDA awarded $13.3 million in Farmers Market Promotion Program grants to 164 marketing and promotion projects associated with farmers markets, community-supported agriculture and other direct-to-consumer outlets.

National commitment

The USDA awarded a total of $34.3 million in funds on Oct. 2 for several programs that support local foods.

Tom Vilsack, agriculture secretary at the USDA, said each of the grants targets a part of the growing market for local foods.

“USDA is helping to create economic opportunities for producers, increase access to fresh, healthy food for consumers and connect rural and urban communities across the country,” Vilsack said.

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