Top 9 Reasons Why Michigan Farmers Markets Lead the Pack

Author: Rachel Chadderdon Bair

Our fifth season of Double Up Food Bucks in Michigan farmers markets kicks off this month at 150+ participating sites! In honor of our incredible on-site partners and countless organizations statewide that make this program a success, we wanted to share our list of top 10 reasons why Michigan leads the pack in SNAP sales at farmers markets (see chart below) and has the best farmers markets in the country (our well-justified opinion).
1. Asparagus, blueberries, cabbage, darn good tomatoes! Michigan grows a lot of great produce. In fact, Michigan is rated #2 in diversity of agricultural production nationwide, right behind California. Farmers markets are a great place for all Michiganders to get the best that Michigan has to offer!
2. We have MIFMA. The Michigan Farmers Market Association is a strong, well-organized, member-driven coalition of farmers markets. Led by an active volunteer board and stellar staff, MIFMA helps markets with practical things such as a group liability insurance policy as well as a range of educational opportunities such as their annual conference, regular webinars, and the country’s first market manager certification program
3. MIFMA has a Food Assistance Partnership. Since 2006, MIFMA has grown the number of Michigan farmers markets accepting SNAP and other food assistance programs from 3 to more than 130. By convening a network of markets, state and local agencies, nonprofits, and enthusiastic individuals like Mr. Gordie Moeller in Grand Rapids, FAP provides the logistical and outreach support that markets need to be successful.
4. Our state government is on board. Michigan takes farmers markets seriously as an opportunity to increase healthy food access for all residents. The Michigan Department of Human Services helps us send a mailer to more than 200,000 SNAP recipient households each year letting them know about Double Up. And SNAP sales at farmers markets are referenced on the Governor’s Health and Wellness Dashboard as a marker of success in Michigan! (And look at them climb!
The Governor and Lt. Governor visiting the Farmers Market at the Capitol with Fair Food Network's Jen Lada and Rachel Bair
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development works with MIFMA every year to sponsor a series of Farmers Markets at the Capitol, bringing growers from all over the state to a market on the lawn of our legislature’s headquarters. What’s more, they market at the capitol offers Double Up. Our state believes in farmers markets as a key piece of Michigan’s economy and makes the space to celebrate our state’s agricultural heritage.
5. Senator Debbie Stabenow. Our state senator has been a long-standing champion for Michigan’s food and agriculture sector. She was instrumental in the passing of the Agricultural Act of 2014, which includes federal funding for a new Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives (FINI) grants program modeled after efforts like Double Up. (For more on FINI, check out this blog.)  Before that, she authored another “two-fer” program, the Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program in the Child Nutrition Act in 2004. Sen. Stabenow is a leader in finding ways for our federal dollars to support our farms and our families and her work continues to lead Michigan forward.
6. We work together on outreach. For the past three years, Double Up materials have used focus-group tested USDA nutrition messages and our state SNAP-Ed implementing agency, the Michigan Nutrition Network at Michigan Fitness Foundation, has included references to Double Up in its own materials. Its groundbreaking social marketing strategy is having a real impact. Have you seen their billboards or bus ads?
Look for these billboards and bus ads this summer
7. Detroit’s Eastern Market. Let's talk about the giant kohlrabi in the room: one of the country's largest and longest running open-air public markets, located in a city with one of the highest rates of SNAP eligibility. Since 2007, when Eastern Market became the fourth market in the state to accept EBT, it has emphasized outreach to SNAP shoppers through market programming and communications efforts. This includes partnering with us back in 2009 when Double Up was just an idea. Today, Eastern Market alone accounts for around 23% of all Double Up Food Bucks activity in the state.
8. Funders are supportive. Markets have taken advantage of diverse funding opportunities to strengthen operations, broaden programming, and promote SNAP participation in their communities. From government programs such as Communities Putting Prevention to Work, Specialty Crop Block Grants, the Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Community Development Block Grants, to investments from forward-thinking private and community foundations, funders have provided crucial support. 
9. Double Up Food Bucks. Into this perfect environment, Double Up Food Bucks was born back in 2009. By offering a simple process that fits within the normal operations of a typical farmers market  plus a unified message that could reach SNAP recipients statewide, we have made the most of the healthy environment in Michigan to grow the program to reach families, farmers, and communities across the state! 
Double Up Food Bucks is available from June 1 – October 31 at 150+ sites across Michigan.  Happy shopping!