By PATRICK HOWARD
Capital News Service
LANSING— The demand for fresh, local produce has boosted a statewide uptick in the number of farmers markets. And a state grant program aims at ensuring low-income communities don’t miss out on such opportunities. Katharine Czarnecki, community programs manager at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC), the agency that provides the grants, said farmers markets benefit both job creation and health and create social bonds that help communities. Czarnecki said the agency developed the Farm to Food grant program in 2010 to help three areas: urban development, agricultural infrastructure and a “passive solar system loan fund” used to construct “hoop houses” that can grow vegetables year-round.