It’s Saturday! Imagine entering our downtown Market at 125 West Green during our outdoor season mid-May to November and before you are a multitude of canopies featuring tables displaying an abundance of fresh, local vegetables and fruits. Herbs, eggs, meats & poultry, flowers and cinnamon bread aromas envelop your senses as shoppers stroll amid the wide aisles checking out the healthy, tasty choices. There are smiles and casual conversations ensuing as people sip coffee while relaxing at tables on the grassy knolls. Youngsters may delight in the activities of the children’s tent, while you listen to a guitarist strum a tune.
Or, it’s Wednesday! Many of the friendly faces of the seasonal vendors are seen at our Winter Market operating November to May in the lobby of our local hospital. Our partnership with Oaklawn Hospital brings focus on nourishing habits for everyone in addition to providing the nearby grown foods that are a constant part of our offerings to you. Come with a friend for lunch from one of our vendors or from adjacent Ella’s Café or perhaps you prefer to sit and visit in the comfy lounge of our sunlit market venue while you contemplate menu items for your upcoming meals.
In operation since 2001, the Marshall Area Farmers’ Market has operated in Marshall’s downtown area bringing fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and poultry, baked goods, plants and flowers, and more to Marshall’s citizens and visitors to our historic city. We’re proud of our commitment to supporting our Michigan based hard-working farmers, growers, artisans and producers while also supporting sustainable economies and environmental practices to provide employment and income to our citizens. Come for the day or the weekend when you can also visit our quaint retail stores nearby and relax in one of our charming inns or bed and breakfast homes. Make it a date to celebrate with us each August at our Farm to Table dinner serving the delicious products grown by our vendors. We pride ourselves in supporting our community – ask about our discounts for low income families and our support program for non-profit operations. It’s worth it!
In about 2001 a small group of vendors established Marshall Area Farmers’ Market which operated independently, selling from a small parking lot with approval of the city. In 2014, noticing the growth and interest in farmers’ markets in Michigan, the city council established a study committee to research and prepare a report on the operation of the market. The committee report was published a few months later citing that there was considerable interest in expanding the market and capitalizing on its potential to respond to the public’s interest in accessibility to healthy, locally grown foods and to provide opportunities for farmers and producers to expand sales through supportive management and an aggressive marketing program.
The city council supported the recommendations and voted that the committee become a market advisory board to manage the market and to raise funds to support the operation. By May 2015 the board had raised over $30,000 in funds, found a larger site for the market, marketed the program, and opened. And the rest was history! The market has more than tripled in size and it draws as many as 1000 shoppers a day during peak season. In 2015 Oaklawn Hospital asked that the market sell from their lobby on Wednesdays during the winter months.
Goals and Mission
The market goal is primarily to be a produce market. Vendors must be located within Calhoun Country and its adjacent counties. This helps keep products locally grown, seasonal and fresh; most often picked the day before the Saturday market. When allowed to ripen on the vine, produce develops full flavor intended by nature. Conversation abounds at the market – building relationships with vendors and neighbors, petting dogs, and watching children grow from season to season. Supporting local farmers, food producers and artisans keep Michigan dollars local. The market is a small farm and business incubator. The farmers may grow many varieties of plants, including heirloom, because they are not limited to those that ship and store well. Our famers use various growing methods – watch for certified organic, sustainably grown or conventional growing methods. When farmers have hoop houses, they may also stretch the period of time certain products can be extended. A local carbon footprint naturally results because the produce was not shipped across the country or an ocean. Small farms thrive with a dependable retail outlet for their products, so families profitably stay on the farm and cities benefit from the economic development.
“Shop at the farmers’ market. You’ll begin to eat foods in season, when they are at the peak of their nutritional value and flavor, and you’ll cook, because you won’t find anything processed or microwavable. You’ll also be supporting farmers in your community, helping defend the countryside from sprawl, saving oil by eating food produced nearby and teaching your children that a carrot is a root, not a machine-lathed orange bullet that comes in a plastic bag. A lot more is going on at the farmers’ market than the exchange of money for food.”
Providing Safe Product/Oversight
Our food vendors primarily fall with two types developed by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) to support and encourage their participation in our market – the Cottage Law and the Food Establishment Licensing setting the standards to insure the safety of products sold.
Vendors with a great food business idea who want to test the waters before fully committing to a business may find the Michigan Cottage Food Law is a great opportunity to test the market, fine tune their idea, and to gain some business experience without committing to a full scale license business operation. Still, a cottage food operation must comply with a variety of rules and regulations, including labeling, adulteration and other provisions.
Food Establishment License
Licensing for foods other than those on the approved list for Cottage Law vendors are considerable and are specific by type of product to be sold. Essentially, a key consideration is that any foods that require time and temperature control for safety are not allowed to be produced in a home kitchen and must be produced in a licensed kitchen as they are potentially hazardous if not handled appropriately.
Our goal is to secure a variety of produce vendors at our market. Bakers who typically are Cottage Food vendors are another sizable group benefiting by selling at farmers’ markets. Others that fill out vendor spaces are eggs, meat and poultry, coffee, plants and flowers, sausage, ice cream and pops, essential oils, quiche, artisan breads, popcorn, garlic, prepared foods (pastys, hot dogs, and frittatas), jams & jellies, maple sugar, artisans, honey, cheese, and more. Products vary by season and vendor availability.
The market provides local musicians a venue to liven the marketplace. One canopy tent is dedicated to children attending the market with their parents to stop for a few minutes for activities we’ve planned for them. A series of patio tables on our site give locals an opportunity to catch up with friends perhaps with a cup of coffee or a quick lunch. Non-profit organizations in the community may use a booth to share information about their programming or upcoming events. Chefs are offered space for demos. We partner with other organizations in town to boost our customer base and to help them sell theirs such as the Home Tour, Hospital Races, Holidays, and others. We are approved to provide discounts on healthy foods through the Bridge Card SNAP program and the Double Up bucks both for lower income individuals. Annually, the market hosts a Farm to Table dinner fundraiser which showcases the products sold by the vendors.
Our market is managed by an advisory board of the city of Marshall, a compensated manager, city liaison, and a city council liaison and are open to the public. Subcommittees may be developed for special events as needed. Additional support comes through the city (accounting, site improvements and upkeep), and many dedicated volunteers and donors. Grants are sought from time to time.
Marshall Area Economic Development Alliance
Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce Member
Michigan Farmers Market Association Member (MIFMA)
Michigan State University ListServ
Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development
City of Marshall Michigan
 ~Excerpt from Six Rules for Eating Wisely, by Michael Pollan, Time Magazine