Programs for beginning farmers on the rise

Capital News Service

LANSING — On average, the state’s farmers are 56 years old, according to Michigan Farm Bureau. But an interest in local and organic food might yield a younger, fresher crop of farmers.

“It has a lot to do with people being awakened to the issue that the food system is broken and there are a lot of opportunities to fix it and also make a living,” said Lindsey Scalera, the Canton-based co-chair of the Michigan Young Farmers Coalition. “It’s tough. People’s farms do fail. They might not always know how to do a contract. There’s a lot of learning.”

That learning curve was the impetus behind the coalition’s formation, Scalera said. The group is a platform for young farmers to talk with one another, share advice and go in on purchases together.
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More farmers markets welcome food benefits


Capital News Service

LANSING – Food stamp use at farmers markets is expanding – and soon it may be easier for markets to accept food stamps.


The Allen Street Farmers Market in Lansing is one of almost half of markets in Michigan that accept food benefits. Credit: Becky McKendry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently requested suggestions to improve service and eligibility requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, also known as SNAP or food benefits. And the East Lansing-based Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) submitted comments calling for improvements in the way farmers markets seek SNAP eligibility.

Among the suggestions: Simplify the paperwork for markets to apply for SNAP eligibility and provide more assistance with associated costs.

“We have a lot of opportunities for growth here,” said Amanda Shreve, manager of programs and partnerships at MIFMA.

Markets across Michigan have started to accept food stamps, from the Allen Street Farmers Market in Lansing to the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market.

Shreve said there are approximately 300 farmers markets in Michigan, with about 130 accepting SNAP benefits as of May and with more applying all the time.

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