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Southeast Farmers Market finally kicks off for black vendors

Posted at 9:45 PM, Jul 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-12 01:02:27-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — COVID slowed the opening of a minority-run farmer’s market in Grand Rapids that was supposed to kick off in May.

But finally, more than two months later, vendors are ready to show off their goods.

It was opening weekend for the Southeast Farmer’s Market in Grand Rapids at Martin Luther King Junior Park.

Vendors are mostly African American and offer a wide variety of produce, homemade goods, art and jewelry.

“Shopping at this market in particular is really important right now because we’re supporting local business, we’re supporting black business and pouring back into our community,” said market manager Alita Kelly.

They’re also following the rules for COVID safety using gloves, sanitizer, and wearing masks of face shields.

“Kinda got my start just helping my mom in the garden,” said Bruce-Michael Wilson.

He grew up on a 160-acre farm in Hopkins so growing produce is in his blood.

“We also raise cattle and pigs and chickens and things, so I’ve been a farmer a majority of my life,” he said.

Everything you see on his table was picked right on the family farm and it’s all organic.

His goal is to teach others about what that really means.

“It’s really a label but at the same time that label means healthy - healthy food, you know the best healthy food you can get because it’s certified through the USDA,” said Wilson. “The USDA has requirements on my farm as far as how we grow, what we grow, crop rotations, things of that nature that people don’t necessarily get when they go to the grocery store - you know they’re not always buying organic food.”

Yvonne Woodard has been involved with the market since 2007.

She’s an urban gardner growing herbs in her backyard.

“And I happen to be allergic to Benadryl, but this is a natural antihistamine,” she said as she showed some produce she grows.

Her goal is to help those who may live in an area known as a “food desert” where fresh food is scarce. She wants to make sure her community has access to healthy options.

“I think we only have one grocery store within about, what, 5-8 mile radius,” she said. “Even though we might be eating food, is it healthy? Is there a lot of chemicals on the food? And we can’t avoid it all, but we need to, and we know a lot of minorities haven’t had access so we’re also trying to improve the health of the community.”

She also gets items from other local minority vendors to sell like cherries and honey. She tells FOX 17 she will continue to promote the market to help her community.

“Because I believe in the market and I’ll support it until I can’t move no more,” she said.

If you’d like to support them as well, Joe Taylor Park will host the market every other Thursday starting July 16th.