Seasonal Eating During the Dark Days of a Michigan Winter

Did you know you can still eat local Michigan produce even on a 6-degree, snowy February day? It’s true–there are greens galore, root vegetables for days, and apples aplenty. Not to mention all the frozen or preserved foods that are available. How are we growing greens with a foot of snow on the ground? Growers use greenhouses or, more commonly, hoop houses. Less expensive than a green house, a hoop house is a passively heated structure where plants are grown in the soil and allow the growing season to be extended.

Why make the effort to eat seasonal produce?

  1. It tastes better.  Fruits and veggies start to lose their nutrients (a.k.a. their flavor) as soon as they are harvested. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far and thus can get to your table faster. Spinach from our hoop house will last two to three weeks in the refrigerator. Can the same be true for boxed greens from the store? Also, sugar is nature’s antifreeze. As temperatures drop, cold-hardy vegetables increase their sugar content to prevent ice crystals from forming and damaging the plants.
  2. It’s good for you. Those nutrients that are being lost post-harvest are what you need to stay healthy this winter. A University of California study showed that vegetables can lose 15-55% of vitamin C within a week. Kale, which grows well in the winter, is a powerhouse source of vitamin C, which can help fight off colds and reduce the duration of illness.
  3. It’s good for your local farmers. Winter is a slow time for your local farmers and buying produce now can help farmers get through the lean times. Many Farmers Markets are held year-round; check out this directory from Taste the Local Difference to find a farm market near you.
  4. It’s a fun way to expand your cooking skills. Have you ever cooked a rutabaga or celeriac? If not, now is your chance. Kale salad is a favorite winter go -to recipe. The trick is to massage the shredded kale with a little bit of olive oil, so it turns dark green and becomes easier to chew.

Curious to learn more about how to eat seasonally in the winter and even year-round? Check out this guide on what’s in season throughout the year in Michigan. Another great way to eat more local, seasonal food is to sign up for a subscription with a local farmer. Sometimes called a Community Supported Agriculture Program or a Farm Share, these programs connect consumers directly to farmers which makes it easy to get a box of the freshest produce each week.

Did you know that several Trinity Michigan hospitals have farms on their grounds? St Joe’s Ann Arbor, St Joe’s Oakland, and Mercy Health Muskegon all have farms that work to grow not only vegetables, but also a healthy community.

The Farm at St Joe’s Ann Arbor is 11 years old and has many programs that connect people, farmers and health. Learn more about our program here.

2021 Farm Share Get a weekly or bi-weekly box of local produce! Learn more here. Need financial assistance? Check out our Fair Share option.

Ypsi Area Online Market A virtual farmers market with pick-up options at the Farm or in downtown Ypsilanti. Start shopping here.

Nutrition Buddies: Virtual after -school cooking classes this spring with our resident physicians for 12-14 year olds struggling with food insecurity. Families receive two-seasons of the Farm Share for participating. Contact: for more info or to sign-up.

Looking for other options? Register today for the 2021 virtual CSA Fair and read this article by MSU Extension for Tips on Joining a CSA.

Eco Ride your bike to The Farm this Sunday

This Sunday, 9am-1pm, join the Ecology Center and The Farm at St. Joe’s for bike rides from Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, following the Border to Border Trail, to The Farm at St. Joe’s. This years Eco Ride stop at St. Joe’s will also feature art from a local artist.  Tour the farm and see the new patient focused, accessible hoophouse

John Deere Model 35 Bicycle.

John Deere Model 35 Bicycle

and see what else Farmer Dan has growing this summer. There are fun ways to participate even if you don’t bike.

Late fall update from The Farm

Hoophouse 2 is growing with salad mix, scallions, kale, arugula, spinach, kale, chard, beets, and carrots.

The garlic is planted outdoors at the farm, and we are now ready for the snow and ice of winter to come. It is a time of reflection, planning, and hunkering down at The Farm at St. Joe’s.

It’s hard to believe that this is our third fall at The Farm at St. Joe’s. This fall we have a third hoophouse that is being retrofit to be handicap accessible and this be patient focused. This is an exciting project in partnership with St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and Eisenhower Center. Stop by in March to see some innovative hoophouse production with a therapeutic twist.

Work on The Farm this fall has been getting accomplished in part with the help of the Washtenaw County ISD Young Adult Program. This group of 5 young adults help out for two hours each Thursday morning rain or shine or cold.

Farmer Dan has been also getting farm hand support from Eastern Michigan University dietetic intern Garnet Bruell. Garnet has been helping around the farm to prepare garlic beds, plant garlic, weed, water, and rip tomato plants. Garnet is also helping behind the scenes to help build organizational capacity for The Farm.

The Farm has been visited by two tour group this past month, one organized by FSEP, which was a group of food service employees from Ypsilanti Public Schools and one group of professionals for an event called “Eating Healthy Day” organized by The American Heart Association. The Farm is happy to give your group a tour. Just email

We always welcome visitors. Stop by and say to Farmer Dan and the winter vegetables.

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First Lady Michelle Obama Visits A Hoophouse (full of kale)

Photo By Scott Olson/Getty Images

Yahoo News reports that First Lady Michelle Obama visited an urban farm in Chicago this week. Not only does this urban farm have a hoophouse, much like our own hoophouses, but she was also photographed picking kale.

The Farm at St. Joe’s is grateful that the first lady has taken a serious interest in promoting small-scale farming. Thank you Michelle Obama.