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 by Andy Wakeman

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: Wednesdays and Saturdays 8 a.m. to noon, through mid-October. Veteran’s Park Pavilion: Saturdays 9 a.m. to noon, after mid-October through mid-May.

CHARLEVOIX | Bridge Street: Thursdays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., through October 6. Charlevoix Public Library: TBD

ELBERTA | Penfold Park: Thursdays 8 a.m. to noon, May 26 through Labor Day. Thursdays 9 a.m. to noon, Labor Day through October 13.

ELK RAPIDS | Rotary Park, 305 US-31 North: Fridays 8 a.m. to noon, June 10 through October 7.

EMPIRE | Front Street: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 11 through September 3.

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

GLEN ARBOR | Glen Arbor Township Hall: Tuesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 7 through September 13.

HARBOR SPRINGS | West Main Street: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 28 through October 15. Wednesdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 1 through August 31.

INTERLOCHEN | 2112 M-137: Sundays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., May 1 through October 30.

LELAND | 102 River Street: Thursdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 9 through September 8.

LUDINGTON | North James Street Plaza: Fridays 3 to 7 p.m., May 27 through September 23.

NORTHPORT | 105 South Bay Street: Fridays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., June 3 through September 9.

PETOSKEY | Howard Street between Mitchell and Michigan Streets: Fridays 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 27 through September 30.

SUTTONS BAY | St. Joseph Street: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 14 through October 22.

ST. IGNACE | St. Ignace Marina Parking Lot: Thursdays 3 to 7 p.m., July through September.

TRAVERSE CITY | Sara Hardy Market: Saturdays 7:30 a.m. to noon, May through October. Wednesdays 8 a.m. to noon, June through September. Parking Lot B, southwest corner of E. Grand Traverse Parkway at Cass Street. Village Outdoor Market: Mondays 2 to 6 p.m., May through October in The Piazza (between Cottageview and Red Drive at the The Commons). Village Indoor Market: Saturdays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., November through April in the Mercato.

MARQUETTE | The Marquette Commons: Saturdays 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 21 through November 19, Wednesdays 4 to 7 p.m., June 15 through September 21.

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 by Andy Wakeman

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.

Photo by Andy Wakeman

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

Photo by Andy Wakeman

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

Photo by Andy Wakeman

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

Photo by Andy Wakeman

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 by Andy Wakeman

Photo(s) by Andy Wakeman