I have a friend named Annie who I’ve known about a year now.  She is about my mom’s age, with a physical disability that occasionally confines her to a wheelchair and qualifies her to live in the subsidized senior housing high-rise in Ypsilanti, across the street from the Downtown Ypsilanti Farmers’ Market (DYFM).

DYFM started in 2006, in response to the Washtenaw County Public Health Department’s designation of the south side of Ypsilanti as a “food desert”, with minimal access to sources of fresh food.  It was intended to provide a source of vegetables for the communities living in the area, allowing alternative payments like food stamps and Project FRESH vouchers, but for Annie it has been so much more.

Annie started volunteering in 2009 in the Ypsilanti Food Co-op booth at DYFM, where they run the Bridge Card machine to allow shoppers to exchange electronic food stamp benefits for wooden tokens to spend with the vendors.  This is when I met her; she was new to the area, and just thrilled to have a way to get involved and active, especially at this market right across the street from where she lived.  She worked at the market all season, stayed involved with the Ypsilanti Food Co-op throughout the winter, and in March, she launched “The Farmers Marketeers”.  She recruited a crew of several seniors, variously abled and aged, to create crafts, grow seedlings and vegetables on their apartment balconies, and (my favorite) stitch unique aprons and handbags out of repurposed thrift-store clothes.  They sell these wares at a cooperatively run booth at the market, which just started up again for the season on May 4, and they are adorable.

Someone (well, several someones) started that little market, and kept it going.  Annie started volunteering and followed her momentum from there.  Now the residents of that high-rise, who were before at high risk for isolation and poor health, have an opportunity to be physically and socially active, get out into the community, and earn a small amount of supplemental income.  And I got a cool apron.