Growing Healthier Choices For Children, Families And Farmers In Rural Michigan

July 11, 2011

Girl at farmer's market

Girl enjoying a farmers market in Michigan. Photo by Ivan LeBianca. 

Benton Harbor, Mich. — With the support of a $400,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The Conservation Fund has launched an ambitious effort to bring more healthy food options to low-income communities in Michigan by bridging the gap between markets, producers and consumers. Over the next three years, the Fund’s Midwest team will work with local and regional partners to break down the barriers facing minority farmers, strengthen their operating margins and improve their ability to make nutritious, locally grown produce more accessible to needy families in 11 counties.

“In order to get more healthy options from the fields to the families in need we have to provide practical solutions to the challenges facing growers, sellers and communities,” said Peg Kohring, Sawyer resident and Midwest Director for The Conservation Fund. “Many minority farmers in Michigan do not have the resources they need to grow more produce and improve their profitability. Local farmers’ markets in poorer, rural communities often lack the facilities required to provide and sell a variety of fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. And area residents are often unaware that affordable healthy food is available right in their own neighborhoods. This project will better equip farmers and farmers’ markets to become a vibrant part of the local infrastructure and ultimately provide a robust selection of healthy food options.”

To achieve this goal, the Fund will utilize a comprehensive strategy that connects these three key components.


  • We will help farmers access funding from USDA and state conservation programs and provide 1:1 business planning assistance that will help to strengthen farm operations and sustain farmland ownership.
  • Loans from our ShadeFund program will be available to farmers as well as farmers’ markets to help to pay for facility upgrades like cold storage and the ability to accept Bridge Cards.
  • Finally, we recognize the importance of community groups and their efforts to engage local youth and families at the farmers’ markets with educational demonstrations and activities. Small grants will be available for these programs.


Dru Montri, Director of the Michigan Farmers Market Association, explains: “We are pleased that The Conservation Fund in Michigan is working to improve the production capacity of low resource farmers who are selling fresh, healthy food at farmers markets in low-income communities. Supporting small- and mid-size farmers is a great way to support the Michigan economy. We feel that the opportunity for collaboration between MIFMA and The Conservation Fund will bolster farmers markets and help make local food available to all communities.”

The program will provide assistance to producers, markets and communities in Allegan, Berrien, Monroe, Bay, Lenawee, Van Buren, Cass, Oceana, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and Washtenaw Counties.

“We are pleased to support this effort to create opportunities for small, rural farmers, particularly minority farmers in Michigan to strengthen their capacity to grow and sell more fresh, healthy and affordable food in more low-income and rural communities,” says Ali Webb, deputy director at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. “It’s clearly on target with our efforts to increase access to fresh, healthy food for vulnerable kids.”

Over the past 15 years, The Conservation Fund has saved 30,000 acres of active farmland and natural resources in Michigan. We understand that in order for conservation to last, farmers and local communities need to benefit economically and socially. In North Carolina, the Fund’s Resourceful Communities Program has been helping rural communities address persistent poverty by tapping natural resources to create jobs and strengthen economies. Working with community-based partners, the Fund helps to shape and implement equitable and sustainable solutions to the longstanding problems of environmental degradation, poverty and racism.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success as individuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information on the foundation, please visit

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

Press Release Contacts

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |

For Inquires in Spanish, Contact: Peg Kohring, (616) 510-1221, Email:

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