Head Start Families Help Farmers Extend Their Growing Season

October 18, 2012 | News

October 18, 2012, EAST LANSING, MICH – Farmers markets across Michigan abound with the bountiful harvests from Michigan’s agricultural industry. As these markets expand, so do efforts to make farmers markets more accessible to all Michigan residents, including those that face food insecurity.

Building upon the increasing number of farmers markets that are accepting food assistance benefits all across the state, the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), in partnership with the Michigan State University (MSU) Center for Regional Food Systems and the MSU Student Organic Farm, is facilitating a program designed to introduce vulnerable families to their local farmers market and to provide them with the resources they need to become loyal, repeat customers. This program is just one component of the Center for Regional Food Systems’ Farm to Preschool programming.

The program, called “Hoophouses for Health,” is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and allows food insecure families to assist farmers in paying back loans they have secured to build hoophouses on their farm. A hoophouse is an unheated, plastic-covered structure that enables farmers to extend their growing season and permits farmers to grow and harvest cold-tolerant vegetables throughout the winter months.  Hoophouses are increasingly becoming a pivotal part of eating local year round in Michigan.

Through this loan program, farmers pay off their hoophouse loans by accepting vouchers as payment for the food they sell at the farmers market. Vouchers collected constitute repayment on their hoophouse loans.  This year, the program partnered with the Michigan Head Start Association to distribute vouchers to families of local Head Start agencies, with instructions for the parents to use the vouchers to purchase food from participating farmers at their local farmers market. This two-generation strategy targets both parents and kids by providing parents tools to demonstrate to their children how to eat fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy diet.

By introducing Head Start families to farmers markets where they can access fresh fruits and vegetables the program begins to build communities and healthy habits for families early on.  “I believe this program and the incentives it offers is bringing new families to the market and that it has the potential to create loyal customers,” explains participating farmer Christina Yancho of Trim Pines Farm.

Dru Montri, Director of MIFMA, describes one of the program’s goals as “building the capacity of low-income families to access and utilize more fruits and vegetables in their diet to improve the health of their family while at the same time building the capacity of the agricultural community to meet the demand for fresh produce by extending the growing season.”

The program plans to distribute $500,000 over a three-year period to farmers seeking to install hoophouses, which will in turn disburse food of an equal value to Head Start families over a five-year repayment schedule. In 2011, 12 farmers received loans for a total of $179,248 and planned to collect almost $19,000 worth of vouchers to begin repaying their loans at six Michigan farmers markets. In the next two years, the program will expand to many more farmers and markets, thus serving a larger number of vulnerable children and their families.

For more information about this program, contact Amanda Shreve at 517-432-3381 or amanda@mifma.org.

Head Start Families Help Farmers Extend their Growing Season

Daily cialis maybe will be enough? The doctor told me when I started giving him money just like that. It was very happy with my behavior as not every day you will see such as I. I throw money.