Leave your dinner plans behind and head to a local Northern Michigan farmers market. Let these farmers and their produce set the menu for your next freshly harvested meal.

True farm-to-fork chefs don’t plan their daily menus until they’ve visited their local farmers market to find out not just what is in season, but also which fruits and veggies have reached their absolute zenith of ripeness that day. With the cornucopia of farmers markets stretching across Northern Michigan, from Marquette to Ludington, being your own best chef is a breeze. In late summer, when the harvest is at its peak, the markets are in full swing. Meet the farmers, rancher and cheesemaker that inspired this memorable harvest meal!

Related Read: This article first appeard in the September issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine. View our digital issues or subscribe to get Traverse delivered to your door each month.

2021 Northern Michigan Late-Summer Farmers Market Calendar

Dinner on the table.

Photo: Leelanau Piedmontese steak with Leelanau Savory’s pesto; grilled peaches from Bakker’s Acres; tomato pie made with tomatoes from TLC Farms; grilled corn from Bakker’s Acres; Boss Mouse Smoked Butter.

BOYNE CITY | Veteran’s Park: Wednesday 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday 7:30 a.m. to noon, through mid-October. Boyne City Town Hall: Saturday 9 a.m. to noon, after mid-October through mid-May.

CHARLEVOIX | Bridget Street: Thursday through October 7, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ferry Beach: Monday through September 4 to 7 p.m.

ELBERTA | Waterfront Park: Thursday through October 9 a.m. to noon

ELK RAPIDS | Elk Rapids Chamber, 305 US-31 North: Friday through October 8, 8 a.m. to noon.

EMPIRE | Front Street: Saturday through September 12, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

FRANKFORT | Open Space Park on Main Street: Saturday through October, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

GLEN ARBOR | Glen Arbor Township Hall: Tuesday through September 8, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

HARBOR SPRINGS | West Main Street: Saturday through October 16, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

INTERLOCHEN | 2112 M-137: Sunday through October 9, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

LELAND | 102 River Street: Thursday through September 9, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

LUDINGTON | North James Street Plaza: Friday through September, 3 to 7 p.m.

NORTHPORT | 105 South Bay Street: Friday through September 10, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

PETOSKEY | Howard Street between Mitchen and Michigan Streets: Friday through September 24, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SUTTONS BAY | St. Joseph Street: Saturdays through October 31, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

ST. IGNACE | 62 North State Street: Thursdays through September 4 to 7 p.m.

TRAVERSE CITY | Sara Hardy Market: Wednesdays 8 a.m. to noon, Saturdays 7:30 a.m. to noon through October, Parking Lot B, southwest corner of E. Grand Traverse Parkway at Cass Street. Village Outdoor Market: Monday 2 to 6 p.m. through October, Red Drive at Village at Grand Traverse Commons. Village Indoor Market: Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through November to May in the Mercato.

MARQUETTE | 112 South Third Street: Saturday through October, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through September 15, 5 to 7 p.m.

Leelanau Piedmontese Beef

Locally raised grass-fed beef, including Leelanau Piedmontese, is becoming a common commodity at Northern Michigan farmers markets. Craig and Karen Olmsted have been raising the rare breed of cattle from the Piedmont region of Italy for nearly 30 years. The cattle are known for their lean meat—the result of their inactive myostatin gene. The Olmsteds sell both solely grass-fed beef as well as beef fed on grass and organic, non-GMO corn (which adds a bit of fat to the meat). Craig is especially partial to a Piedmontese rib steak, so we took his advice and heated up the grill with delish results.

Find Leelanau Piedmontese Beef at these Northern Michigan farmers markets: Empire, Glen Arbor, Leland, Northport, Suttons Bay

Beef Recipe

Featured Recipe | Grilled Piedmont Steak with Leelanau Savory’s Genovese Basil & Parmigiano Reggiano Pesto

  • 6 Leelanau Piedmontese ribeye steaks
  • 1 3.5-ounce tub of Leelanau Savory’s Genovese Basil & Parmigiano Reggiano Pesto, room temperature

Heat the grill and place steaks on it. Since Piedmontese beef is so lean, Craig tells us it will cook faster than other beef. His rule of thumb for a medium-rare steak is to grill it for two to four minutes per side, depending on the thickness. Once off the grill, plate it up and slather it with the pesto as you would a chimichurri sauce.

Leelanau Savory’s

No doubt, you’ve tasted pesto. But if you’ve never tasted Leelanau Savory’s pesto then you’ve never really tasted pesto. Theresa Olesky, the mother of this basil divinity, has masterminded 10 pesto varieties with a twist: she adds cheeses. The varieties include two types of Parmesan, two types of feta, raclette, Havarti and gouda. We took home a tub of Genovese Parmesan Pesto but plan on eating our way down the list in the near future. Whatever flavor you choose, dip bread into it, toss the pasta in it, dress a salad with it—the options are endless. We decided to slather our Piedmontese ribeye steak with it.

Find Leelanau Savory’s at these farmers markets: Glen Arbor, Northport, Suttons Bay

Woman at Farmers Market in Northern Michigan.

Photo: Theresa Olesky of Leelanau Savory’s with her homemade pesto.

Bakker’s Acres

This family farm/orchard specializes in fruit—gorgeous raspberries, luscious peaches and those sexy new apples on the block, Honeycrisp and SweeTango. But we’ve long loved the sweet, fat ears of corn they sell, a variety called butter and sugar. It turns out their neighbors actually grow the corn and the Bakkers take it to the market for them. This corn is always great boiled, but this time we grilled it and melted Boss Mouse Smoked Butter (below) all over it. Yum.

Find Bakker’s Acres at these farmers markets: Empire, Glen Arbor, Leland, Northport, Suttons Bay and Traverse City in the fall

Three cobs of corn.

Featured Recipe | Grilled Bakker’s Acres Corn on the Cob with Smoked Butter

  • 12 ears of Bakker’s Acres corn
  • 1/3 pound block of Boss Mouse Smoked Butter, room temperature

Peel the husks back leaving them attached at the base of the cob. Remove all silk—first by hand then by rubbing the cob with a nubby kitchen towel. Pull the husks back over the ears and soak the ears in cold water for about an hour. Place on a hot grill and turn every couple of minutes until the kernels begin to char. Serve with Boss Mouse Smoked Butter.

Boss Mouse Smoked Butter

Cheesemongers and their locally made artisanal cheeses are popping up in Northern Michigan farmers markets. Sue Kurta’s Boss Mouse Cheese was one of the first, and it didn’t take long before her cheesemaking talents developed a fan following. But since Kurta has started cold-smoking butter over applewood at her production facility in Kingsley, her fans have bordered on Beatlemania. Smoked butter is cosmic, used in everything from sautéed mushrooms to scrambled eggs. But smearing it over corn on the cob is hands-down the most scrumptious way to use it.

Find Boss Mouse Cheese products at these farmers markets: Elk Rapids, Elberta, Frankfort, Glen Arbor

Boss Mouse Cheese

Second Spring Farm

The Second Spring stall is always heaped with fruits and veggies from the Cedar-based farm. Market master Joey Corcoran was up to his elbows helping customers when we stopped by. Nevertheless, he took a moment to chat about some recipe ideas for using his produce. When he introduced us to the farm’s sweet watermelons, a variety called Little Baby Flower, and told me about a friend who’d made a watermelon cocktail from a melon he’d bought from Second Spring Farm—suffice it to say, it turned cocktail time at my home into happy hour.

Find Second Spring Farm at these farmers markets: Glen Arbor, Northport, Traverse City

Watermelon cocktail

Featured Recipe | Watermelon Cocktail
Makes 4 to 6 cocktails

  • 8 cups of cubed watermelon from Second Spring Farm 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons honey or maple syrup
  • 1 cup vodka
  • Fresh Mint for garnish

Put the first three ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour through a sieve to remove pulp and seeds. Mix with the vodka. Pour over ice and garnish with fresh mint.

TLC Farms

Four years ago, Joe Vanderbosch and his wife, Anne Cunningham, traded their professional careers for lives as hydroponic tomato farmers. The tomatoes at their TLC Farms are watered every 30 minutes with a solution that includes calcium, iron and magnesium—making them extremely nutritious and incredibly delicious. Joe and Anne grow mostly beefsteak, roma and cherry tomatoes, but chances are you’ll find some heirloom varieties among the mountains of produce that mark their farmers market stands. And if you’re lucky, Anne will have set out a few “catfaced” (a tomato deformity) tomatoes at a seriously marked down price. A brawny TLC beefsteak tomato with a catface inspired this airy, juicy tomato pie.

Find TLC Farms at these farmers markets: Glen Arbor, Northport, Suttons Bay, Traverse City (Wednesdays only)

Crustless tomato pie

Featured Recipe | Crustless Tomato Pie

  • 1–2 TLC beefsteak tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for greasing pan
  • 1/2 cup diced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped basil leaves
  • 2-3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 2-3 free-range eggs

Place sliced tomato(es) on a baking sheet, sprinkle them with salt, then cover with several layers of paper towel. Let them stand for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and let cool. Combine the eggs, onion, garlic, pepper, basil and mozzarella cheese. Line a lightly greased baking dish (approximately 13x9x2 inches) with one layer of tomatoes and pour half the egg and cheese mixture over it. Repeat. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until brown on top.

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Radishes from a local Farmers Market

Photo(s) by Andy Wakeman