I Never Met a Fall I Didn’t Like

Without a doubt, fall is my favorite season. The cider buckets, warm sweaters, and hay rides delight me every year, no matter how many times I’ve experienced them. As the weather cools down, my excitement warms up as I see my neighbors set out pumpkins on their porches and cafes set out signs for pumpkin lattes on their sidewalks.

nn

Maybe you share my love for fall and have been eagerly awaiting its beginning. Maybe you haven’t yet discovered all the season has to offer. Whether you’re a fall fanatic or a fall skeptic, I can tell you one thing for sure: Fall in West Michigan is awesome. Period.

nn

If you don’t believe me, take a look at these great fall things to do in West Michigan. I challenge you to try them all and not fall in love with fall.

nn

1.  Cider

nn

nn

Cider is a fall staple, and where better than to get cider than Michigan? Our state is a prime place to find flourishing apple orchards. One such orchard, Sietsema's Orchards and Cider Mill is located just outside Grand Rapids in Ada. Sietsema's runs their own cider mill and creates delicious cider on-location. Open all day throughout the fall, this is the perfect place to fulfill your cider craving.

nn

2. Artprize

nn

nn

One of the most well-known features of West Michigan, ArtPrize in Grand Rapids is a wonderful event that takes place in streets, shops and galleries all over the city. Lucky for you, it is happening right now! ArtPrize will be taking Grand Rapids by storm from September 24 to October 12. If you’re a veteran and are up for a new art experience, try going to the pre-party and after-party of the awards ceremony on October 10. Although the awards event itself is ticketed, the outdoor parties before and after are free and open to the public!

nn

3. Seasonal Produce

nn

nn

If you wander the Downtown Farmers Market or Fulton Street Farmers Market, I can guarantee that one thing will become clear: squash is in season. The oranges, yellows, and greens are spilling over on all the tables! But I want to tell you about a lesser-known orange, yellow, and green plant: swiss chard. A leafy vegetable often used in Mediterannean cooking, swiss chard is in-season for the fall as well. Give it a try by making these mouth-watering Swiss Chard Fritters.

nn

4. The Great Outdoors

nn

nn

What better way to celebrate fall than to simply take a walk through it? And you don’t have to go far to find incredible trails for hiking or nature walks. So get out and explore the changing trees and cool breezes–and maybe bring a friend with you to marvel together. To get started on your outdoor adventure, check out all the resources on the Grand Rapids City website. For an extra bonus, try collecting leaves and doing this craft when you return home.

nn

5. Sweaters

nn

nn

One of the reasons I love fall is because it’s the season when I get to haul out my big box of sweaters. Wrapped up in knits and wool, I always look forward to the coziness. If you’re looking to expand your collection of sweaters this fall, then West Michigan is a great place to do it in an inexpensive and eco-friendly way! Try out Clothing Matters or Urban Exchange to find gently-used, severely-comfortable sweaters for the fall.

Fresh Food in Happy Hands

A friend and I went to the farmers market yesterday, and I just wanted to touch every gourd, pumpkin, zucchini and apple that I saw. Bright oranges and smooth greens made them irresistible. My friend and I stopped and talked with a farmer about her apple varieties. Another offered her wisdom on autumn spices to us. In the cool sunshine, I felt a sense of comfort and contentment that came with making a real-live connection with my food.

nn

For this reason, I am excited to introduce you to Crisp Country Acres, a farm in Holland that delights in personally putting fresh food into the hands of West Michigan community members.

nn

nn

For over 120 years, the Visser family has owned and operated the farm, passing the land down through three generations. Along the way, dozens of sisters, brothers, daughters, sons, wives, husbands and grandchildren have worked on the farm, extending a passion for good food all throughout the family.

nn

Starting as an idea of a Dutch immigrant couple, Crisp Country Acres has grown into a flourishing lakeshore business. Now, they attend five different farmers markets, provide a year-round Community Supported Agriculture program, supply over 30 restaurants in West Michigan with their produce, and host their own year-round farm stand on location.

nn

For the Visser family, crops are their passion, but people are their delight. Just as they love to cultivate the food they grow, they also love to cultivate relationships with their customers. They intentionally ask a customer what he has been cooking with their produce. Or tell a customer what she might enjoy knowing is happening on the farm this week.

nn

So–if you are like me, and you enjoy a tangible connection with your food–I think you just might find a friend in Crisp Country Acres. You can meet them on the farm in Holland, but you’re also sure to spot them at farmers markets in Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Kalamazoo, Trufant, and Byron Center. Once you do, use their produce to try your hand at their delicious recipe, Potato Kale Soup.

nn

To learn more about Crisp Country Acres, visit their website at www.crispcountryacres.com.

nn

The 10×10 Pledge

nn

You can use your 10×10 dollars this week to make a meal from nearly 50 options of produce, meats, and more that Crisp Country Acres has to offer!

nn

Haven't taken the pledge yet? Do that here:

nn

nn

The Eat Local Challenge is sponsored by Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose.

Local First throws Lakeshore Street Party

Local First is traveling to a lakeshore town tomorrow to throw an inaugural street party with a diverse lineup of food, beverages, musicians and activities — which reflects the surrounding neighborhoods.

nn

“Microcosm” of its mission

nn

Grand Rapids-based Local First, a nonprofit that advocates local businesses, will host the Lakeshore Street Party from 3-9:00 p.m. at Washington Square in Holland.

nn

The event, which is free to attend, is meant to engage businesses and residents.

nn

The afternoon will feature a range of vendors: New Holland Brewing Co., Vander Mill Ciders, Electric Cadillac Delicatessen, Beechwood Inn, Ray’s Tamale King, The Latin Project, Vinylicious and more.

nn

Between band sets, the local dance troupe Circle Junkeez will perform breakdancing, while WaZoBia plans on conducting interactive Afro-Cuban drumming with families to kick off the party.

nn

Other entertainment will include hula hooping with Audacious Hoops and children’s activities provided by the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holland.

nn

Michele Lonergan, Lakeshore membership coordinator for Local First, said the focus of the street party is to feature local businesses and engage a diverse community.

nn

“The great thing about Washington Square is it is a microcosm of what Local First is all about,” Lonergan said. “It is a great mix of locally owned, independent businesses. There is everything from a yoga studio that has been there for about a year to a 30-year-old restaurant, Pereddis, and incredibly involved business owners. We were thrilled to have the opportunity to put on a street party there.”

nn

Neighborhood interest

nn

With the event in a two-block retail square settled among a vibrant residential area, Lonergan said there’s been positive feedback and excitement from residents, churches and nonprofits.

nn

“The Boys and Girls Club is located right around the corner from Washington Square, so they are going to have a lot of the kids who are involved with Boys and Girls Club come down to the square and street party to do all of the kids’ activities for the day,” Lonergan said. “We have had a lot of calls from the churches in the area, some of the Spanish-speaking churches are really excited about it. It is one of the reasons we printed all of our publications in both English and in Spanish, because we wanted to reflect the demographics of the neighborhood.”

nn

Moveable Party

nn

Local First developed its inaugural Lakeshore Street Party after it was approached by many businesses on Washington Square, asking the organization to take the lead in planning a celebration similar to its Grand Rapids street party, according to Lonergan.

nn

“We wanted to do a street party in some form on the Lakeshore, but it was actually the businesses on Washington Square, many of which are Local First members, who approached us,” Lonergan said. “That was a great thing, because we had buy-in from all of the businesses on the square itself. Many of them had attended the street party in Grand Rapids and loved the idea of tying it in with local businesses.”

nn

For original news article, click here.

Local First aims to strengthen local business

Local First is working to promote local businesses, protect the environment and develop meaningful relationships in the Grand Rapids area.

nn

“Grand Rapids has such an awesome collection of local businesses that really care about this city and its people,” said Calvin alumna Catherine Kramer. “Local First is a great resource to find out about those businesses and learn more about the important role they serve in our community.”

nn

The organization hopes to improve West Michigan in many ways, including events, a directory and a number of other resources.

nn

“We lead the development of an economy grounded in local ownership that meets the basic needs of people, builds local wealth and social capital, functions in harmony with our ecosystem, and encourages joyful community,” reads Local First’s website.

nn

Over 700 businesses in West Michigan are members of Local First. Membership is reciprocal, benefitting the business through Local First’s marketing and events and benefitting Local First through the business’s commitments to local economy and sustainability.

nn

“A 2008 study of Kent County commissioned by Local First determined that just a 10 percent shift in consumer spending toward locally owned businesses would create $140 million in new economic activity, 1,600 new jobs, and $50 million in new wages,” reads the website.

nn

“According to the research firm Civic Economics, when West Michigan consumers choose a locally owned business over a non-local alternative, 73 percent more money stays in the community.”

nn

This weekend, Local First will be hosting one of their biggest events of the fall, Lakeshore Street Party. Similar to the Local First Street Party held in Grand Rapids in June, the Lakeshore Street Party in Holland is “a family-friendly celebration of local music, food and beverage,” according to the event website.

nn

Local First will be hosting additional events throughout the fall, as well as their continuous Eat Local Challenge. More information can be found on the organization’s website, localfirst.com.

nn

For original article, click here.

Community Gathered To Celebrate All Things Local

The word “Community” was in the air Tuesday evening at Coppercraft Distillery when approximately 130 people and over 20 different local businesses gathered together for a night of celebrating local foods.

nn

For the event local restaurants were paired with vendors from The Holland Farmer’s Market and were instructed to collaborate and create a dish using the farmer’s fresh products.

nn

People attending were able to float from one table to the next tasting small plates of carefully crafted dishes from each restaurant. Attendees also were able to mingle with the local vendors as well as the owners and chefs from the six participating restaurants including American Char, Butch’s Dry Dock, Farmhouse Deli and Pantry, Salt and Pepper Savory Grill and Pub, and Salt of the Earth.

nn

“You get to speak to the owners and you get to speak to the people who are so passionate about what they do and that makes a connection to the experience that’s deeper than just going to the grocery store,” said Program and Event Coordinator of Local First Hanna Schulze.

nn

The project resulted in six widely different dishes that were also paired with a complementing local beverage from businesses including Coppercraft Distillery, Fenn Valley WineryOur Brewing Company or Virtue Ciders. The event was topped off with Lemonjello’s specialty pour-over coffee and dessert from JK’s Bakehouse and Deli.

nn

Local First began back in 2003 in Grand Rapids. When asked what people should know about Local First Schulze said, “We really exist to highlight the local businesses that drive our local economy and that they are really the glue that holds the community together.”

nn

Peter Sweeney from Farmhouse Deli and Pantry said that they go to the Holland Farmer’s Market every Wednesday and Saturday to buy the local foods. “I would hate to go to a place where everything is corporate,” Sweeney said.

nn

The event highlighted the strong connections the restaurants have with surrounding farms and vendors. Austen Fresham, head chef at Butch’s, had nothing but good things to say about their partners at Visser Farms. “We get stuff from them four days a week in the summertime,” says Fresham.

nn

Chefs and Gather goers alike were asked why they think it’s important to support local farms. Attendee Betsy Koop said she attended “To support our local economy and to support the farmers that work so hard!” Head Chef of American Char Len Towne mentions the importance of supporting local vendors. “They’re working so hard so why wouldn’t you support someone like that?”

nn

Kara de Alvare, marketing coordinator for the Farmer’s Market said: “Anyone that has been to the Farmer’s Market on a busy Saturday morning would agree that Gather is the perfect name for this event. The Holland Farmer’s Market is truly a place where people come together to experience and build community.” The evening showcased just that as people attending got to speak with the faces behind the foods.

nn

For more information, visit www.localfirst.com and www.hollandfarmersmarket.com.

nn

Contributed by Hannah Jacobsma from Hope College. Photo courtesy of Junebug Photography.

The Koeze Company’s Peanut Tradition

If I had to name some West Michigan traditions, art, beer and tulips are the first things that come to my mind.

nn

But what about peanut butter?

nn

nn

The Koeze Company has been producing peanut butter right here in Grand Rapids for over 100 years, making their Cream-Nut Natural Peanut Butter another West Michigan tradition.

nn

Since its foundation in 1910 by Sibblele Koeze, the Koeze family hasn't stopped creating peanut butter, although they've added nuts, brittle, chocolate and many more indulgent snacks to their menu.

nn

In a time when ingredient lists seem more like ingredient novels, Koeze has maintained their short delicious duo: peanuts and salt. That's it. Produced on vintage equipment and packaged in glass jars, the company strives to provide the community with classic, simple products. Koeze intentionally continues to invest in Grand Rapids, showing its commitment to maintaining a local presence through its customer service and award-winning natural products.

nn

Jeff Koeze, the founder's great-grandson and company's current helmsman, has expanded the company to distribute products in different ways beyond traditional retail. However, peanut goodness can still be purchased in local retail stores on the East Beltline in Grand Rapids and Burlingame Ave in Wyoming, as well as local D&W stores and West Michigan Meijers.

nn

Now, I would definitely say that the Koeze Company's products can be consumed with pleasure in their simplest form, but if you decide to get fancy with your peanuts, try out Koeze Peanut Butter Bars, a simple recipe to get you started in this Grand Rapids tradition. Grab a jar, a pan, and a hungry friend to get started!

nn

nn

The 10×10 Pledge

nn

You can use your 10×10 dollars this week to incorporate Koeze Company peanut butter into a meal or treat. Spread it on toast, add it to Thai noodles, or spoon it directly from jar to mouth!

nn

Haven't taken the pledge yet? Do that here:

nn

nn

The Eat Local Challenge is sponsored by Twisted Rooster and Crooked Goose.

Holland hosts a celebration of local food

Coppercraft Distillery in Holland knows the importance of our West Michigan farmers.  They decided to team up with Local First to bring the first annual, Gather: A Celebration of Local Food.

nn

Farmers, chefs, and bartenders all met at Coppercraft Distillery to share some delicious Michigan grown food and cocktail pairings.  All food was grown in Michigan, including the liquor used in the cocktails.

nn

The event’s goal was to bring awareness too the farmers who are here in West Michigan growing our food and to spotlight local chefs.  The hope is to continue this event on a yearly basis.

nn

For original news article, click here.