Rockford is America’s Favorite Farmers Market—period
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL
Every contest or election is won through the support of voters and organizations. Rockford’s winning entry in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest was no exception.
This improbable journey began in May of this year when Rockford City Manager Michael Young gave the go ahead to Kim McKay, City Treasurer and Farm Market Administrator, to enter the annual farm market challenge sponsored by the American Farmland Trust. This was Rockford’s first attempt to enter the
City-sponsored market in this prestigious nationwide contest. Both City Administrators gave their full and enthusiastic support during the 13-week summer contest.
Entry in the contest placed an added burden on Market Master Bob Winegar and the Rockford Lions. For many years, the Rockford Lions have acted as volunteer Market Masters overseeing the Saturday morning operations of the Rockford Farm Market. This is an outreach service project of the Rockford Lions and is provided to the community at no cost. Without the Lions valuable service the Rockford Farm Market would not be what it is today.
However, the real unsung heroes of this farm market contest are the wonderful farm market family vendors that have comprised the heart and soul of the market since its inception some 10 years ago. We all have our favorite vendors and we all owe them a debt of gratitude and a shout of appreciation for the role they played in winning this contest. Without their presence every Saturday morning, there would be no market.
First off, let us thank each and every one of the 6,083 people who cast their vote for Rockford’s Farm Market during this “winning season”. Their votes, which resulted in a resounding win in the contest, brought much-deserved recognition and national attention not only to Rockford’s great Farm Market and our fair city but also to the State of Michigan and Michigan agriculture. With two small-town Michigan farm markets – Rockford winning its small market category and Manistique in the U.P placing 2nd in the nation in its boutique market category – the bounty of Michigan agribusiness was brought to light.
Players and Supporters
Space will not allow us to list all of the players and supporters that made Rockford’s Farm Market #1 in the USA. Here, in no particular order of importance, as everyone was equally important, are some but not all:
• Michelle Wise, Wise Photography / graphic design
• 73rd District MI State Representative Pete McGregor and wife, Chrissie
• Rockford Mayor Steve Jazwiec / Huntington Bank Blues Series
• Dan DeWard, D2D / Rock the Dam contest
• Juilet Dragos & Blake Naftel along with the entire WZZM13-TV news team
• Sue Arend, Rockford Education Foundation Administrator & REF supporters
• Gene Parker, 100.5 FM – The River
• The Grand Rapids Press
• Steve Peterson, Mitchell’s Run & supporters
• 20 downtown Rockford businesses that allowed placement of contest posters
• The Cedar Springs Post newspaper
• The Pioneer Tribune newspaper / Manistique, MI
• Bob Stegmier / Izaak Walton League members
• Mellisa Harrington, Fulton St. Fm. Mkt. Adm., & MkFacebook fans
• Hundreds of Rkds Fm. Mkt. supporters reaching out to Facebook friends
And many, many more…..
Of course, we certainly cannot forget three white knights waiting in the wings to add their support during the final 3 days of the contest, as needed. Those being:
• Dr. Michael Shibler, Rockford Schools Superintendent & Rkfd. Schools staff
• Blake Krueger, WWW Bd. Chn., CEO & President, and company employees
And probably our unsung hero, Kerry Ott, Farm Market Manager of the Manistique, MI Farmers Market in the middle of nowhere in Michigan’s U.P., along with the wonderful peoples of the City of Manistique (pop. 3,000) and Schoolcraft Co.
Waving the white flag in Manistique’s bid to win the boutique market size category in the contest, Ott determined that Manistique could not prevail in its own battle against North Port, FL. In the final three days of the contest Ott guided her market’s support to, as she said, “Win one for Michigan”. Where do you find people like this? (By the way Ott’s mother, Doris Andrews, graduated from Rockford High School in 1942.)
And last but certainly not least, Rockford’s locally owned original hometown newspaper The Rockford Squire and its editor Beth Altena who for the past 13 weeks allowed us, your humble reporters Cliff and Nancy Hill, to bring you exclusive front page coverage of Rockford’s Farm Market in its “winning season”.
One final thought. Save for $36 spent on twenty-four farm market posters, no other monies were expended in the promotion of this 13-week contest. This “Pure Michigan”, Pure Rockford, feel-good event did not ask for, nor receive, one cent of financial support to achieve this outstanding victory for the Rockford community.