Our Farmers, Our Partners

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The summer months are among the most enjoyable times of the year for me to buy produce. This is when I get the chance to deal with all of our local farmers. Most of you have seen or been at the Eastern Market on a Saturday or Sunday morning, but to visit it at 3:00 a.m. during the work week is a different experience altogether. As I walk from shed to shed, selecting and negotiating produce for our stores, I enjoy the many casual conversations I’m able to have with our partners, the local farmers.

As the summer wind blows in, so do our locally grown fruits and vegetables. My usual first stop each morning is with Rob Ruhlig of Ruhlig Farms, which is located in Carlton, Michigan. Ruhlig Farms grows a wide variety of vegetables, such as corn, peck tomatoes, cabbage, pickles, zucchini, yellow squash, greens, broccoli, pumpkins, winter squashes and peppers. Ruhlig Farms is also a large grower of annual flowers.

My second stop is with Ron & Tim Campbell of Campbell Farms. They provide us with fresh bunches of radishes, cilantro, parsley, carrots and leeks.

Our next stop is with Everett Leitz of Leitz Farms, which is the grower of the famous None Better label. Leitz Farms is, without question, the most perfect and precise grower at the market. You would be hard pressed to ever find a tomato or cucumber that is not picked and ripened to perfection there. In the months of late July through early October, all of the grape tomatoes, vine-ripe tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, cucumbers, and honey rock melons you find in our stores are a direct result of the hard work done at Leitz Farms.

Next up on the Eastern Market tour is Tom Wolak of Wolak Farms, which is located in Armada. Tom provides us with all that sweet corn most of you can’t wait to indulge in. Tom’s corn is usually the sweetest on the market but typically the last to be ready (2nd week of August). Tom also provides the best green beans, which he grows almost exclusively for Nino’s.

Jim Vansteenkiste of Vansteenkiste Farms is easily my most pleasant visit each morning. Jim is always upbeat and just a joy to do business with–not to mention one heck of a grower. Jim usually provides us with Swiss chard, bunch beets, kale, greens, bok choy, and specialty peppers.

Our last stop each morning is with Dave Rudich of Rudich Farms. Dave is another excellent grower and is usually one of the first Michigan growers to have corn ready. Dave also grows some of the best green peppers in Michigan.

My relationship with all of our farmers goes back a long time, and nothing brings me more joy than supporting our local growers. Maybe one day they will figure out how to grow all year round.