Rockford’s ‘Pure Michigan’ Farm Market ends first decade

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

Michigan is the second most diverse agriculture state in the nation, and nowhere is that diversity and abundance more apparent than every Saturday morning at downtown Rockford’s Farm Market.

Rockford’s Farm Market ends its 2010 season this Saturday, Oct. 30. Vendors await with a cornucopia of locally grown fall produce. Photo by CLIFF HILL

“People really appreciate knowing where their food is coming from,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young. “Rockford was really ahead of the curve when we brought a farm market downtown in 2000. People will flock downtown knowing there is something to flock to.”

Ahead of the curve would be an understatement at best. Nowadays cities, villages, townships, DDAs, and chambers of commerce are leaping on board by sponsoring farm markets in their respective communities across the nation. They see no threat to their local business districts and fully realize that farm markets enhance quality of life for their citizens and bring new visitors to town who oftentimes return to frequent newly discovered shops and restaurants.

This Saturday marks the last Farm Market day of Rockford’s 2010 season, where shoppers can enjoy fresh locally grown produce and partake in the wonderfully unique fall traditions Michigan has to offer. Think pumpkins, apples, cider, root vegetables, mums, all varieties of squash along with locally produced artisan breads, honey, cheese and jerky.

Everything about being at the Rockford Farm Market is about community: fresh locally grown food, people talking, and having fun. Indeed, the Rockford Farm Market has become a social phenomenon. People love the spirit of their hometown market.

Most of the vendors that made up the nucleus of the original Rockford Farm Market became regulars and are still with us today. Most practice sustainable farming methods and some are strictly organic. They epitomize the phrase “Know your farmer, know your food.” They have come to know us (Rockford customers) and we them, on a first name basis. We all have our favorite vendors for different varieties of produce, and it’s a joy to watch shoppers move from stall to stall filling their market baskets.

The Rockford Farm Market is a “pure” farm market, meaning that only Michigan-grown produce and locally produced foodstuffs are allowed.

“From the start the City did not allow craft vendors, because they might be a threat to local businesses, and we did not want a flea market atmosphere,” said Young.

Young is especially proud that the Rockford Farm Market incurs little or no expense to the City to operate. Fees for vendor booths easily absorb the few expenses that occur, with the profitable balance ending up in the City’s general fund. Contributing greatly toward that end are the Rockford Lions who, in recent years in keeping with their mission of public service, volunteer as Market Masters, overseeing the market’s Saturday morning operations at no cost to the City.

“Rockford is committed to the future of Farm Market and will continue support in a manner that will help it achieve even greater success than it already knows,” Young said.

So this Saturday is your last chance to fill your market basket and say “goodbye” until next June to local farmers the likes of Post Farms, Bob Alt Farms, L&L Bull Farms, Diemer’s Winter Gardens, TerAvest Farms, Earthkeeper Farm, and Visser Farms, to name some of many more. Among other things, you’ll see us stocking up on Great Harvest Bread Co.’s fall specialty: Pumpkin Extreme Cinnamon Swirl bread!

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