Nonprofit futhers local food movement and hosts Growers Fare where you can “shop for a farmer”

After being postponed for two years due to COVID-19, the sixth-annual Growers Fare will be taking place this weekend at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Hosted by the West Michigan Growers Group (WMGG) and Michigan State University Extension, Growers Fare brings local, sustainable farmers together to share their products with and engage with the West Michigan community.

The Growers Fare will have 20 to 25 farms from across West Michigan participating with a variety of products such as fruits, vegetables, proteins, dairy, flowers, herbs and tea. 

“It's a pretty diversified offering of what types of farms we have in West Michigan,” says Samantha Otto, director of WMGG.

While some of the first Growers Fares focused on marketing farms’ CSA programs, Otto says that the focus has recently moved to the idea of “shop for a farmer,” where customers can walk around, talk with farmers and find the one that works best for them, based on their needs and location. 

The WMGG was founded in April 2012, bringing together farmers from around the region.

“It started out as just a lot of small, local sustainable farmers who were farming in solitude … and sort of trying to figure things out. Eventually, [they] just sort of all decided they wanted to be connected and started getting together for a monthly farm gathering at different farms throughout the area,” says Otto. During this time, Otto says farmers were able to collaborate and connect with others who were facing the same struggles and help each other succeed. 

Eventually, Otto says that the WMGG gained partners, such as Michigan State University Extension, and formed a nonprofit to further support its work connecting, collaborating and educating among small farms. 

“I think the main part of our organization is still those monthly gatherings throughout the season,” says Otto. “And then, throughout the winter and offseason, we just focus on supporting farms and trying to stay connected and help represent and market these small farms in seasons to come.” 

Growers Fare will be held Saturday, March 12 at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market in the second floor banquet room from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Photos courtesy of West Michigan Growers Group
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.