Bob Winegar

America’s favorite farmers market returns Saturday for encore season

May 31, 2012 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL On the wings of victory from winning the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest, the Rockford Farm Market (RFM) proudly sails into its second decade. Since its opening day, the first Saturday of June in 2002, RFM has developed a cult-like word-of-mouth following in the greater Rockford community. In many ways, it was Rockford’s best-kept secret. All that changed with the Market’s entrance last year into the prestigious farmers markets contest sponsored by the American Farmland Trust (AFT). Not only did RFM win its small market category (16-30 vendors), it also received more votes than ANY other single farm market in any category (boutique, small, medium, and large). In doing so, RFM truly could lay claim to the title “America’s Favorite Farmers Market/2011”. Recently the AFT revealed that nearly 1,700 participating farmers markets were entered into last year’s contest. A total of 90,000 votes were cast online. All the more amazing was the fact that the small city Rockford Farm Market received 6,083 votes, or in other words an incredible 6.8 percent of the total votes cast! RFM is a “Pure Michigan” farm market that celebrates and totally reflects the “farm-to-table” movement. It is all about local West Michigan farm produce. A visit to America’s Favorite Farmers Market truly rewards one with a taste of Michigan. Local regional foods simply taste better. Why? Because they are fresher, not having traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to our tables. That they are more healthful simply goes without saying. Because of the resulting media coverage in winning last year’s farm market contest, RFM found itself becoming a destination farm market for foodies and farm market affeciationados from near and far. Just as there are wine trails, there are also farm market trails and RFM now finds itself as a “must” market to visit. What boggles the mind is the fact that RFM operates without cost to its sponsor, the City of Rockford. It has no budget, no paid staff, and does not advertise in the media. Rockford City Treasurer Kim McKay somehow finds the time to organize and administer the June – October market during her already hectic work schedule. Saturday morning Market Master duties are performed by volunteers from the […]

EPA tannery investigation—‘There is no emergency here’

May 3, 2012 // 0 Comments

Contaminants found in multiple test sites on Wolverine property by BETH ALTENA  About a hundred residents, including city officials and Wolverine Worldwide representatives, attended a public meeting held jointly by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) on Tuesday, April 24 at the Rockford Freshman Center. A presentation by a team of four representatives of the environmental agencies detailed the background of their investigation, where the testing stands to date, what possible future outcomes of the process may be, and answered questions well after the 9 p.m. expected close of the meeting. Comments from the public regarding the situation were about evenly mixed among those supporting Wolverine in their actions in removing the former tannery and those who appeared skeptical of the company’s actions or worried about contamination. Dave Novak, community involvement coordinator of the Superfund Division of the EPA, began the evening’s presentation, introducing the other representatives. “We are looking for conclusions based on good science, not speculation,” he stated. “We have a great deal of information in a relatively short period of time. We are letting good science lead us on our journey.” He then gave the floor to Naria Nunez of the EPA. Nunez said the EPA was contacted by a citizens’ petition June 21, 2011 describing concerns over releases during the demolition of the former tannery at 123 N. Main Street, Rockford. She said the petition indicated the demolition was of community concern and included photographs of discolored water running off the property and questions about the past use of chromium at the property. The EPA decided to investigate the site, and began testing in October of last year. Nunez said preliminary testing results found some contamination with potential of offsite contact. The investigation is still underway and is in the preliminary stages. At any time the EPA could decide no further response is necessary; could call for removal of contaminates or could refer the investigation to another government program. The EPA could also continue to investigate and at the end of the process could rank the site based on a system called a Hazardous Ranking System. This is an evaluation of the property based on evaluations of groundwater, surface water, air, ground, or […]

America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest heats up

July 21, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL As of 6 p.m. Monday evening, Rockford still led all farm markets in the nationwide America’s Favorite Farmers Market Contest. But the race to the finish line (Aug. 31) is tightening up with farm markets in four states narrowing Rockford’s lead. The top five markets in vote tally are as follows: • Rockford’s: 1,185 • Venice, Fla.: 1,135 • Fayetteville, Ark.: 987 • Snellville, Ga.: 914 • Las Cruces, N.M.: 809 Just a week ago, the Venice, Fla. Farm Market was almost 300 votes behind Rockford. Apparently, they’ve figured out who they were up against (Rockford) and narrowed the gap to 50 votes as of the writing of this article. Venice, Fla. has a population of 22,000 and its farm market is open year-round. Seems like David versus Goliath, right? So, let’s show the nation why our little hometown Rockford (pop. 5,700) is the envy of the entire state of Michigan when it comes to competition and excellence! If you haven’t yet cast your vote, there’s still five weeks of voting left. We need to keep the pressure on the competition until they throw up their hands in defeat. Cast your e-mail vote(s) at or, easier still, simply stop by the Market Masters booth any Saturday during the Rockford Farm Market hours of 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and register your vote on site.

Historical Society may have lost bid to move museum

March 3, 2011 // 0 Comments

Two proposals for former court building rejected by BETH ALTENA The Rockford Area Historical Society hired a consultant and had huge plans to relocated their museum, now housed in a 100-plus-year-old building with no running water or fire protection, into the unused portion of the former 63rd District Court building, located across the parking lot from City Hall. A decision by Rockford City Council to reject their proposal stunned the group and has them feeling they were turned down without a proper chance to make their case. Historical Society member Terry Konkle attended the February 14 City Council meeting and talked with Mayor Steve Jazwiec after to ask for the chance to prove to Council the Historical Society could bring in enough money to do a good job setting up and also staffing the museum in the new location. The Historical Society, along with North Kent Community Services, submitted a proposal outlining their intended use of the court and on Friday, Feb. 11 received a letter formally rejecting their proposal. According to Rockford City Manager Michael Young and Mayor Jazwiec, council was unimpressed with the business plan of the proposal and is considering an alternative use for the property. “We have a ton of people who could help us, but we can’t start asking for money when we don’t know if we are going to get the building,” Konkle said. He said he feels council is asking the organization to put the cart before the horse by expecting financial proof before they approve the move. “We’d like a chance to sit down with council and talk about the financials. If we didn’t get a shot at it without talking to council, we’d feel pretty disappointed,” Konkle said to Jazwiec. Jazwiec said council feels they put the offer out, made a decision and are unlikely to want to start over. Young said the council rejected the two proposals and is looking at the cost of upgrading the building to the standards of City Hall. Council plans to reevaluate options to have another public-use building similar to the Community Cabin, which Young said is “booked every day.” Young said as a meeting area, the court building would offer a space twice as big as the Cabin and […]