Hoophouses for Health at Bluestem Farm

A community-centered farm, a Michigan association, and an independent band join together to call attention to food insecurity in northern Michigan, celebrating healthy and affordable food for all.

EAST JORDAN – This winter, scores of families will participate in a new winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program offered by Bluestem Farm. After paying a membership fee up front, member families receive regular disbursements of food. Only some of them will not be paying for the food at all, and some of them will receive food at a deep discount.

“As farmers, we of course believe in the importance of good food and see ourselves as an important piece of the local food system, especially in winter when sourcing local food can be really hard,” Mary Brower, owner of Bluestem Farm, said, “but we aware that food like ours can cost more, which puts it out of the price range of many households.”

So Aaron and Mary Brower decided to help change that. For several months now their farm has been able to accept SNAP/EBT payments.  Now, with the help of the Michigan State University Center for Regional Food Systems’ Hoophouses for Health program, they are launching a new endeavor to reach many more low-income families.

The Center for Regional Food Systems recently awarded a zero-interest loan to the Browers to build a hoophouse, or unheated greenhouse, at Bluestem Farm. The farmers will pay the loan back by giving food to low-income families whose children participate in the Head Start program.

“The purpose of the program is to introduce vulnerable families to local farmers markets and to provide these families with the resources they need to become loyal, repeat customers,” Dru Montri, MIFMA director and program partner, said. “Hoophouses for Health also puts working capital into the hands of farmers who use it to build hoophouses, which extend the growing season, and allow Michigan farmers to grow cold-tolerant vegetables throughout the winter months.”

Noticing that Bluestem Farm reaches out to food-insecure families, East Jordan-based independent band Breathe Owl Breathe also approached the farm about throwing a benefit concert in support of a separate new program, the farm’s Help Others Eat Well Fund, which offers a subsidized price structure for people who wouldn't normally be able to afford to buy local, farm-grown food. 

To learn more about Bluestem Farm or its food assistance programs, visit www.bluestemfarm.net.  For more information on the November 8th Breathe Owl Breathe benefit concert, which also supports the work of local non-profit the Institute for Sustainable Living, Art & Natural Design (ISLAND), visit http://artmeetsearth.org/events.html. For more information about Hoophouses for Health, visit http://mifma.org/hoophouses-for-health/.  



October 21, 2013



Mary Brower, Bluestem Farm owner

231-459-8968, bluestemfarmers@gmail.com


Gillian Cobb, Hoophouses for Health Intern

Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA)

517-432-3381, gillian@mifma.org