(Joni Hubred, Farmington Voice, July 28, 2017)
What makes the Farmington Farmers and Artisans Market different from other Oakland County farmers markets?
Depends on who you ask.
Suzette and Don Wright have been vendors since 2004 when the Saturday market was held in a shopping center parking lot. Today, it occupies the Walter E. Sundquist Farmington Pavilion and Riley Park on Grand River at Grove Street, which didn’t even exist back then.
The Wrights say they’ve continued to bring their Michigan photos to Farmington for 13 years because of “the people and the town.”
“Everybody’s so nice,” Suzette Wright said. “We’ve watched kids grow up and go off to school and get married. It’s not just a great place to shop, it’s a great place to meet your neighbors and make new friends.”
Market shopper Alina Lehman, a Livonia resident, said her young family first discovered the market in early July.
“It’s just a great selection and great for the little ones,” she said. “This market has a lot more options. It’s nice that it’s right downtown, so you can walk around and go to the shops and restaurants.”
Those comments hit all the marks for Market Master Walt Gajewski, who manages the three-season market for the City of Farmington. His mantra is simple: “Come experience Saturday life in Michigan small town.”
According to the Michigan Farmers Market Association, the number of Michigan farmers markets has grown from 90 in 2001 to more than 300 today. A location in the heart of downtown, walkable space, the pavilion and park, rotating selection of vendors, cooking demos, live music, and a range of other activities all put Farmington in a class of its own, Gajewski said.
“We are a destination because of all that,” he added. “You can spend an hour or a day.”
The “small town” experience also extends to a number of community partnerships. The market’s participation in the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, Senior Project Fresh, and Farmington/Farmington Hills Neighborhood House voucher program allows local residents in need to purchase healthful fruits and vegetables from market vendors.
Administered by Neighborhood House since 2015, the voucher program gives families a book of coupons used to pay farmers, who in turn redeem them at the end of the market day, board president Alan Maxey said.
Gajewski also noted the market’s ongoing relationship with Beaumont-Farmington Hills Hospital, which offers regular health screenings, and new offerings like a walkers group led by Farmington city council member Sara Bowman.
“The market is more than a place to make purchases,” Gajewski said. “It’s a resource for wellness, fitness, and nutrition.”