Let’s win one for Rockford, two for Michigan
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
The America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest voting website has revealed that the Rockford Farm Market is not alone in Michigan in trying to win a title as America’s Favorite Farmers Market. There will be four winners named, one for each of four market size categories: boutique (15 or less vendors), small (16-30), medium (31-55), and large (56+ vendors). Currently we lead the entire nation in all market size categories. Winning overall would be like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
With three weeks remaining in the contest, we find this is no easy task. Every time Rockford (pop. 5,700) builds up a comfortable lead in the small market size category, our chief competitor, Venice, Fla. (pop. 22,000), comes charging right back. In a 36-hour period over the weekend, Venice voters cast a whopping 400 new votes that cut deeply into our once comfortable lead.
Manistique, Mich. (pop. 3,050), in the boutique size category, finds itself in the same position in an even more hotly contested race. They find themselves with a weekly flip-flopping lead against another Florida market in Punta Gorda (pop. 17,100).
What we have here, in essence, are two Davids versus two Goliaths. Somewhat even more ironic is that, at this time in the growing season of Florida, much of their farm market produce is shipped down from the north.
So, in an effort to assist one another in this contest the Manistique Farmers Market, with the strong support of the Manistique newspaper, The Pioneer Tribune, have joined forces with The Rockford Squire newspaper in promoting our respective markets in the remaining weeks of the contest. The Cedar Springs Post is also joining in and we welcome their support.
“This would be a great way to bring some positive national attention, for a change, to Michigan. And to think we are only the ‘little guys,’” said Kerry Ott, market master of the Manistique Farmers Market. “We will promote this to our supporters as: Let’s win one for Manistique and two for Michigan.”
This is becoming, in part, a contest between Michigan and the pretenders in Florida. After all, Michigan, the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation, is probably supplying most of the farm market produce to Florida at this time of the year.
Making a strong connection with Rockford, Ott said his mother, Doris (Andrews) Ott, graduated from Rockford High School in 1942 and after marriage raised her family in Greenville. “If she were still alive, she would be so excited to see a connection between Manistique and Rockford!” said Ott. He laughed when he said that fate had conspired to find he, himself, raising a family in a “little city, in the middle of nowhere” in the U.P., on the very northern shores of Lake Michigan.
So, Squire readers, wherever you reside, if you’ve already cast your vote for Rockford in this nationwide contest, consider casting an additional vote for our “little sister” the Manistique Michigan Farmers Market. Contest rules permit voting for one farm market in each market size category. Manistique voters will attempt to return the favor by voting for the Rockford Farm Market. A vote for these two farm markets is a vote for Michigan, and all Michiganders, regardless of where they reside, are encouraged to support both markets in this endeavor.
Remember, this is as much an election as it is a contest, and elections are oftentimes determined in the very ending minutes as the polls close. We will not be comfortable with any lead until we are declared on September 1 America’s Favorite Farmers Market in the small market size category and hopefully overall. We need your votes!
If you have not yet voted for the Rockford Farm Market, you may do so online at www.farmland.org/vote or, better and easier still, pay a visit to Rockford’s “Pure” farm market on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and cast a live vote on site. Find out what all of the fuss is about and play a part in the ongoing storied history of Rockford!
America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest vote totals as of 11 p.m. Monday, August 8, 2011 (note market size category) are:
• Rockford Farm Market (small market)—2,385
• Venice, Fla. (small)—2,265
• Las Cruces, N.M. (large)—1,958
• Snellville, Ga. (large)—1,801
• New Braunfels, Texas (large)—1,680
• Fayetteville, Ark. (large)—1,624
• Saratoga, N.Y. (medium)—767
• Punta Gorda, Fla. (boutique)—614
• Manistique, Mich. (boutique)—599