Westside Farmers Market 2010: A Season in review

By Corinna Borden,

Last Thursday was the last market day of the 2010 season for the Westside Farmers’ Market. We were gifted with a warm and clear day, a perfect chance to look back at the accomplishments in the market’s 5th year.

Borden - long shadows at wsfm

This was the first year we accepted Bridge Cards and Project Fresh Coupons. After we scared the bees’ nest away from the Ethernet port, it became a weekly ritual to plug in the point of sale machine in order to swipe customers’ Bridge Cards and hand out wooden tokens. In September we doubled the amount of money SNAP users received thanks toDouble Up Food Bucks (up to the first $20). More than $1,000 was funneled into the hands of our local farmers, in return for fresh healthy food.

Borden - Inchworm Farms

The Cottage Food Law changed the landscape of the market as well. Several vendors choose to augment the weekly offering from their garden with items from their oven. As Brian Steinberg of Inchworm Farms said, “I have probably been able to double my sales this year because I did the Cottage Food bill. It was often the difference between breaking even and making a little money.”

Martha Dopokowski, of R Farm, thought, “[The Cottage Food Bill] has really helped — even though none of these items yet are making use of my own products … that is part of my business plan.”

Granholm signed the law into effect Monday, July 12 and by the following Thursday there were already new items joining the wares on tables.

On average we welcomed 28 vendors every week in addition to non-profits, live music and free massages. Chef demonstrations were fun, often spicy, and bewitchingly spontaneous — depending on the produce of the moment. Mark Baerwolf of Cornman Farms and Zingermans Roadhouse joined us many weeks to experiment and teach. Last Thursday, gas flames roared as he blackened peppers for salsa.

We welcomed an average of 890 people to the market to meet their farmer, to learn about shrimp grown in Okemos, chocolate conched in Dexter, garlic grown in Ann Arbor, Highland Beef grazing in Jackson, or popcorn grown in Clinton.

Every week we recorded our bounty with Real Time Farms. As our local restaurants continue to source their items locally, it is important to have as much information about the farmers and what they grow throughout the season as possible. I look forward to seeing how the website develops for our next season.

Many people have asked these last few weeks why the market does not stay open for a few more weeks, to which my answer is simple.

Borden - Seedling cider at wsfm

The convenience of having an open-air market in the afternoon means that by 7 p.m. last Thursday the sun had dipped behind the buildings of the Westgate Mall. Animals sleep by the sun, not the clock, as John Harnois, of Harnois farms, reminded me as we discussed the deepening dark. Unlike chickens, who put themselves to bed, he faced the prospect of chasing sleeping turkeys into the barn when he returned home.

One of my favorite aspects of eating locally is the reminder of the seasons and the connection with the earth that we share with all creatures, great and small. The deepening dark allows us all to settle in for the winter.

Corinna volunteers with the Westside Farmers Market and wrote a book about many things.

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