Welcome to the Kalamazoo Farmers' Market - Connecting customers to food sources through honest learning relationships and supporting local food related businesses through a vibrant market culture.
Meet Your Farmer
Understory Farm & Orchard
The late summer is prime time to experience the bounty of
Michigan’s farm land, especially throughout the orchard countryside. The
Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market team had the pleasure to stop by Understory Farm
& Orchard, which is owned and operated by Matt Steele and Chanterelle
Vogtmann in Bangor, Michigan.
Understory Farm & Orchard sits on 20 acres of apple, pear, and cherry trees, several vegetable plots, a barn with a century old cider press, and more. Pulling up to the farm, we heard Matt prepping the traditional cider press in the barn, in anticipation of bringing their increasingly popular unpasteurized pear apple cider to the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market the next morning. Understory focuses on bringing sustainably-grown and organically-minded fruits, heirloom vegetables, eggs, flowers, cider, and herbs to farmers’ markets in the southwest-Michigan area, while also offering Community Supported Agriculture (C.S.A.) shares. With the support of several interns, and years’ worth of experience, Understory also manages several orchards within the surrounding area.
Chanterelle greeted us and put us to work right away, equipping us with fruit picking bags that we strapped to our chests and sent us out to help fill a large wooden orchard crate with apples. We were told that several years ago, a large fire damaged portions of the farm before Understory took over, but thankfully much of the orchard was unharmed, including the original cider mill and the mature fruit trees. We helped the staff unload the harvested apples onto a conveyor belt which washed and tumbled the fruit into a large grinder where Matt then shoveled the pulp onto large sheets of cheese cloth. Several pulp-filled sheets are then stacked on top of each other underneath a large wooden press which must be turned by hand. Gallon jugs were being prepared near-by for the fresh cider to be funneled into, and we took no hesitation in sampling a healthy serving for ourselves.
Michigan farm land can provide a vastly wonderful variety of food, and with that, great cultural traditions to which Understory has pledged to encourage and preserve. You can find Understory Farm & Orchard on Facebook, as well as at the 100-Mile Market and the Kalamazoo Bank St. Farmers’ Market. Check out the videos to see how your farm fresh cider was made, and be sure to introduce yourself to the Understory crew at your local market!
Meet Your Farmer
Butternut Sustainable Farms
On the last Friday of August, the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market team made their way down to Sturgis, MI to check out what John Templin had popping out of his dirt at Butternut Sustainable Farms. Dedicated to growing sustainable, chemical-free vegetables, herbs, salad mix, and flowers, Butternut Sustainable Farms has been a food provider in Southwest Michigan since 2012.
We rolled up to John’s 3+ acre farm nestled on the edge of a residential neighborhood along the banks of Lake Templene. Among the grounds lie neat rows of salad mix, a pumpkin and melon patch, rows of red and green okra, oriental varieties of radishes, edible flowers, and more. With three hoop houses, acquired through MIFMA’s Hoop Houses for Health program, bursting with heirloom tomatoes, herbs, plant starts, and micro greens, Butternut Sustainable Farms is able to provide food for CSA shares, the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, The People’s Food Co-op, and several Chicago-area restaurants (including a Michelin star-rated eatery! ), among others.
John acquired much of his agriculture know-how through Goshen College in Indiana, but the land itself has been in his family since the 1880’s. We could even catch a glimpse of his grandfather’s old barn, turning back into the earth alongside the road.
We made our way past the butternut tree that John planted when he was a kid, the same tree from which the farm gets its name. Heading up his parents driveway, we caught a glimpse of their salad mix wash station, where the salad is washed three times, spun dry, and packaged, all with the help from interns, farm hands, and his family.
John has a vision for future growth of his farm, with ideas of purchasing more land to cultivate berries and even an orchard! For more information, stop by the Butternut Sustainable Farms booth at the Saturday Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market, and visit their website at www.butternutsustainablefarms.com.
Our Signage System
There are 4 categories we requested every market business to self-identify their role in our farmers' market as: Retailer, Grower, Producer and Artisan.
Artisans: are hand crafting arts or goods that are non food items.
Growers: are stating they grow 80% or more of the products they sell throughout the season.
Producers: are creating prepared foods or raising animals which make up 80% of their items for sale.
Retailers: are buying high quality fresh produce from other farms or markets and selling it fresh to you at affordable prices.
All of these roles are significant to our farmers' market. It is important to emphasize that this new signage represents a cultural change for our market and will take time to complete. The next steps are to visit and communicate with all businesses to ensure they display accurate signage.
Some businesses will have more than one sign because they are performing more than one of the roles in our food system. Growers might not have their products in season yet.
Our retailers have been forming relationships with farmers who don't come to our market over the course of decades to bring you and your family the high quality fresh produce grown in MI you want!
I look forward to our future, and am excited to talk with you further about the signage program when the next opportunity presents itself.