by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL For the past 13 weeks, The Rockford Squire, your locally owned and original hometown newspaper, has been providing exclusive front-page coverage of the Rockford Farm Market’s improbable race to victory in the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest sponsored by the American Farmland Trust. We hope you’ve enjoyed our articles as much as we enjoyed bringing them to you. It may have only been 13 consecutive Saturday mornings in the history of Rockford, but for the farm market faithful it was the summer of a lifetime. Not only were farm market devotees afforded weekly the abundance of seasonal, freshly harvested, locally grown, Michigan produce, they were at the same time caught up in the excitement of the nationwide farmers market contest. As this week’s Squire went to press, the contest results were not yet available. If you are reading this issue Wednesday, August 31, you still have an opportunity to cast a vote up until midnight when the contest voting ends. All you have to do is get off your “duff,” head to your computer, and go to the contest voting website at www.farmland.org/vote and cast “the winning vote.” If you’re reading this issue of the Squire on Thursday, Sept. 1 or later, the contest is over and the results are available, again, by going online to the aforementioned website. Contest results may also be available in the Grand Rapids Press, along with WZZM TV 13 newscasts, or at rockford.waam13.com, in addition to local radio stations. Or, if you prefer, call Kate, the Squire’s office manager, at (616) 866-4465—she will most certainly have the results. Next week’s Thursday, Sept. 8 edition of the Squire will provide an in-depth recap of the three-month contest, hopefully reporting a win for Rockford. The contest may be over, but Rockford’s “Pure Michigan” farm market sails on and will be open for business as usual through the last Saturday in October (27). The fall season brings a new variety of offerings such as apples, cider, squash, pumpkins, mums galore, and much, much more. • • •
America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest 2011
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Listen up people. When the fat lady sings next Wednesday evening (Aug. 31) at 12:00 a.m. midnight, the America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest will be over. Rockford Farm Market has been tenaciously clinging to the lead in this nationwide contest for the past eight weeks. Not only do we lead overall in all market size categories, more importantly, we also lead in our small market size category. Our opponent, Venice, Fla., is wily. Their strategy in this contest, these past many weeks, is to hang just behind Rockford in vote totals and then overnight close the gap. We are fearful of what might occur in the final hours of voting on August 31. Remember we are talking about Florida, the state of the “hanging chads.” To those of you who have already voted, either online at www.farmland.org/vote or personally during recent Saturday morning visits to the voting site at Rockford Farm Market, we thank you ever so much. However, your support is still needed in these final days and hours of the contest. We ask you to use your considerable social media networking skills to reach out to any and everyone to also cast their votes for Rockford’s great farm market. What would really put us over the top is if every organization (you know who you are) in the greater Rockford community that annually asks for support for their various causes would return the favor by reaching out to their supporters to, in turn, support the City of Rockford-sponsored farm market. This contest has become somewhat more than farm market versus farm market. It has somehow morphed into a state-versus-state competition of bragging rights, with two farm markets in Michigan (Rockford and the U.P.’s Manistique) vying for titles in their respective market size categories against two farm markets in Florida (Venice and North Port). We ourselves like to think of this as a contest between “Pure Michigan” and “Alligator Alley.” For Rockford and Manistique, this has been an unbelievable and improbable journey. The Michigan cities are the Davids versus the Goliaths down south. For Rockford itself, surely our commitment to excellence and winning combined with our giving and generous natures will result in the supportive peoples of the […]
America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest vote totals as of 11 p.m. Monday, August 22, 2011: (note market size categories) small mkt. – Rockford Farm Market – 3947 Venice, FL – 3586 large mkt. – Las Cruces, NM – 3442 New Braunfels, TX – 3164 medium mkt. – Lewes, DE –1096 Saratoga, NY –1018 boutique mkt. – North Port, FL – 2590 Manistique, MI –2179
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL What a ride it was last week for Rockford’s Farm Market in the America’s Favorite Farm Market contest. Our once comfortable lead in the small market size category (16 – 30 vendors) was nearly wiped out by our evil archrival Venice, FL. Almost as bad, towards the end of the week we lost our lofty position as overall leader in all market size categories to Las Cruces, NM. The news is much better this week however. Rockford’s Farm Market is maintaining a respectable lead against Venice, and we are happy to report that we have closed the gap with Las Cruces, NM and are in striking distance of again regaining the nationwide lead (at least as of 10 p.m. Monday evening). Our little sister farm market in Manistique, MI is also holding its own against its competition (Punta Gorda, FL) with a slight lead in their boutique market size category (15 or less vendors). We woke up early last Saturday morning to a thunderstorm dumping buckets of rain on Rockford threatening to wash the Rockford Farm Market into the Rogue River. Just what we didn’t need because voter turnout at farm market has been our greatest source of votes in our ever-increasing voting totals. Thankfully, the storm clouds parted around 8 a.m. and the market faithful, along with first timers, turned out from near and far. In response to radio, TV, and newspaper coverage regular market goers, who hadn’t as yet voted, and first timers, wanting to see what all of the buzz was about, arrived from all over West Michigan to swell our vote totals and fill their market baskets with a cornucopia of freshly harvested, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Sitting at our voting table every Saturday we have been heartened by people telling us they have become addicted to checking voting totals on the contest’s website (www.farmland.org/vote). They tell us they are also using social media (facebook, twitter, etc) to reach out to their many “friends” urging them to also vote for Rockford’s Farm Market. Their enthusiasm in seeing Rockford win this contest is contagious – if only it could be bottled. Apparently our newspartners, the Manistique, MI Pioneer Tribune newspaper and closer to home, the Cedar […]
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Last Friday evening the Rockford Blockbuster Video store hosted, for the first time ever, a Community Involvement/Awareness event. What a better way to kick off what will be an on-going program than to support Rockford’s Farm Market in the America’s Favorite Farmers Market contest. Your reporters, acting as unofficial campaign managers for the Rockford Farm Market in this contest, were allowed to set up a voting site just inside the entrance to the video store. Going forward, Blockbuster plans to make their store available to other individuals, groups, or organizations as a service outreach to their customers in Rockford and the surrounding communities. “Events such as a community blood drive, fire department safety programs, first aid demonstrations, and law enforcement programs such as ‘say no to strangers/say no to drugs’ geared towards children are examples of events Blockbuster might consider hosting,” said Rockford’s Blockbuster Video store manager, Kelly Hoye, adding, “We would not approve petition takers especially those backing a recall or politicians campaigning for public office, for that matter. In other words, nothing of a controversial nature that would imply Blockbuster’s support.” That evening we were honored to be the first group chosen to participate in this newly begun program. We were there to further promote a feel-good community effort – that being named America’s Favorite Farmers Market. We had little difficult harvesting some 100 new votes in the three hours we were allotted. Very few people “say no” when asked to cast a vote for our cherished hometown farm market. Thank-you Blockbuster for allowing us to take advantage of the high customer count traffic at your Rockford location. And thanks also to everyone who voted that night. Every vote counts and yours might be the one that will put us over the top! Groups or individuals interested in reserving a day or evening in this on-going program may contact Rockford’s Blockbuster Video store manager, Kelly Hoye, at 863-9996 for further details.