Lansing currently doesn’t have an abundance of grocery stores, but for several neighborhoods in Lansing, The Allen Farmers Market, located in the Allen Neighborhood Center, serves as a substitute for the regular supermarket, and has done so for the last five years.
“In 2013 we opened the Allen Market Place facility, which houses a lot of our other programs, but that was the first year we went year round,” market manager Julia Kramer said. “We have every type product you could ever need, and everything here is local. It’s grown, or produced and prepared in Michigan.”
Kramer said the local aspect of the market makes it an asset, especially to residents in a community without easy access to fresh foods.
“There isn’t really a grocery store within the neighborhoods boundaries. We’ve got a couple stores here and there, but there isn’t really a way to get fresh produce within the area. So that was the major goal of opening it in 2004,” Kramer said.
Kramer has only been working at the Allen Farmers Market since 2016, but has quickly realized why the market is both convenient and popular amongst Lansing residents.
“All of it is really about 50 miles from here. A couple of our farmers during the summer season are actually hyper local and they’re within the neighborhood, they’re like a half mile away,” Kramer said.
The farmers market houses a variety of vendors, from gluten-free bakers to cheese connoisseurs. Being local helps vendors to be accessible to residents.
“The money that you spend here is going directly to support those vendors,” Kramer said. “We have actually increased the vendors’ sales through a whole bunch of different currencies that we offer at the market.”
Those different forms of currencies include: EBT payments and the Double Up Food Bucks program. The program aids both the vendors and patrons, as it rewards shoppers for using their EBT cards at farmers markets by doubling their money, which means more money is spent on the vendors’ products.
Aside from it being a viable source of income, for Lansing resident and vendor Roxanne Andrews, the Allen Farmers Market is a tool to facilitate her career. She is a gluten-free baker who has been selling her goods at the Allen Farmers Market for four years.
“It’s getting my name out there. People are interested in my products,” Andrews said. “When I do make the transition to having my own bakery, people would already have known me and bought from me.”
The organic baker said another selling point for her to become a vendor at the market was the opportunity to interact with buyers.
“I very much enjoy talking with my customer face-to-face instead of just having it in the store and nobody knows who I am, and I don’t know who’s buying my stuff,” Andrews said. “This gives me the opportunity to talk to my customers, get feedback and even change or modify products as I need to.”
Lansing resident Mariette Heubeo said having a direct line to the producer of her food is the main reason why the market is so valuable to the Lansing community.
“It’s just going directly to the farmer, or directly to the source. It’s just really cool to have a personal connection with who’s feeding you,” Heubeo said.
The Market vendors impact not just people in the community who buy their food, but all people in the community as well, is why 4th Generation Desserts founder Faye Milton believes the Allen Farmers Market is a good place to run her business.
Milton said the market occasionally organizes a food bank for less fortunate members of the community.
“There’s often a long line outside where they have a food bank and people can come in,” Milton said. “There’s a table that goes all the way around the market and people can get their grocery bag and just shop free of charge. They can walk out of the door with no questions asked, and I love that.”