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Try summer agritourism

Published in the Battle Creek Enquirer

On a beautiful spring day, we headed out to enjoy some fresh air and see if we could find some freshly grown Michigan produce. The fancy name for what we were doing is agritourism, which is easy in a state where 300 varieties of food are grown and raised on family farms, on more than 10 million acres throughout the state. June 1 is also the first day of National Fresh Fruits and Vegetables Month. What could be more indulgent than fruits and vegetables right from the farm?

We decided to start at Harvey’s U-pick Farm 11 miles south on I-69. Next year will be their 25th in operation as a first-generation farm. Rose Harvey greeted us with the bad news that all the fresh picked asparagus was already spoken for through call-ahead orders. If you want asparagus, call ahead to reserve your bunch. They harvest all their asparagus by hand and also sell to a few local restaurants, such as Cascarelli’s in Homer and Zarzuela’s in Marshall. Asparagus season only lasts a couple more weeks, then u-pick strawberry season starts in June. Raspberries and blueberries follow in July and August.

Our next stop was Bosserd’s Family Farm on Verona Road, just outside of Marshall. Bosserd’s advertises fresh flowers and beef this time of year. Later in the year they will have fresh vegetables, especially corn and u-pick raspberries. We grabbed some flats of annuals, and a couple of their great steaks for our grill. They offer a full range of corn-fed cattle, raised without hormones or feed-added antibiotics, from cattle grown on their farm in Marshall. Once butchered and aged, the meat is flash frozen.

If you don’t have a day to go to the farm, there are many local farmers markets, which bring the farm to you. Downtown Battle Creek at Festival Square offers a market 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. Saturday morning, you can visit the open-air market in downtown Marshall. One of the larger farmers marketsin the area can be found on Bank Street in Kalamazoo. The People’s Food Co-op manages the Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market on Saturdays. In June, the market will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well.

A great website to locate the nearest farmers market is mifma.org/find-a-farmers-market. Markets have popped up all over the state, catering to rising demand for fresh, locally grown food.

Another option to get fresh produce is to sign up for Share of the Farm subscription service from Avalon Farms in Climax. They offer a variety of Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables, delivered to your home or office. Check out their website at avalonfarmshomegrown.net.

An outstanding resource for all things agritourism is the Michigan Farm Market & Agricultural Tourism Directory. The directory is available online at michiganfarmfun.com. You can search the listings by region of the state, county or product, or can download a printable version.

Tired out by all the fresh air and talk of fresh produce, we decided to end our day by sampling some of the asparagus we couldn’t get earlier in the day. Zarzuela’s is a charming tapas, or small-plate, restaurant in Marshall. We ordered our favorite Spanish wine to go along with the crunchy calamari. Of course, we sampled the Esparragos Al Vapor: steamed asparagus with Manchego cheese, roasted red peppers and marinated portabella mushrooms served with balsamic reduction. One of our favorites is the Patatas Bravas, fried potatoes seasoned with smoky Paprika. They offer several fresh pasta options, but we stuck with the traditional Spanish paella for two, a rice and seafood dish.

What a great day to enjoy healthy, farm-fresh produce and spend some time outside in Michigan’s greatest asset: our natural environment.

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