Rockford Farm Market

America’s Favorite Farmers Market 2011 closes Saturday

October 27, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL This Saturday will mark the close of the Rockford Farm Market season and what a season it was! In spite of a scant few naysayers, 6,083 market-goers weren’t wrong when they named the Rockford Farm Market as America’s Favorite Farmers Market. Sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, the June through August contest highlighted what the Rockford Community already knew – our hometown Farm Market is second to none! The buzz of publicity generated by the contest, on TV and in the press, brought countless new visitors to Saturday morning markets resulting in, according to market vendors, a runaway successful season. Possibly little understood is the fact that the Farmer’s Market is an economic engine that directly benefits Rockford’s downtown business community. This is underscored by a study undertaken by the Midtown Neighborhood Association, operators of the nearly 100-year-old nonprofit Fulton Street Farmers Market in Grand Rapids. The Fulton St. Market, at its busiest, attracts upwards of 10,000 customers per week who spend an estimated $200,000 weekly at nearby businesses. The East Fulton Business District and all Eastown businesses, in general, benefit by the spillover effect of market-goers seeking other shopping and dining choices after filling their market baskets. Yes, the Fulton Street Farmers Market operates four days a week and the Rockford Market only operates on Saturday mornings. Nevertheless, Rockford’s mighty small-venue market brings upwards of 3,000 visitors to town on Saturday mornings, June through October of every year. From our contest-polling table at the Rockford Farm Market this summer, we learned first-hand that market-goers were eager to seek out everything that Rockford has to offer. If only more of Rockford’s business community could wrap their minds around the potential to exploit and embrace, to their financial advantage, the huge influx of market patrons. Other information of note harvested at our polling table was two often repeated anxious comments. The first being, “Where’s the closest washroom?” Followed by, “Why aren’t there at least Port-O-Jons on site?” We heard this as a complaint from vendors and a plaintive cry of help from market-goers. At the very least, visible signage could be placed directing those in need to the restroom facilities adjacent to the Welcome Center and those facilities available to the […]

Rockford’s Farm Market voted best in national contest

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL When the online polling site closed last Wednesday evening at midnight, the Rockford Farm Market found itself atop the leader board in ALL market size categories in the 2011 America’s Favorite Farmers Markets contest. The online contest is an annual nationwide challenge, sponsored by the American Farmland Trust, a pro-agriculture organization with headquarters in Washington D.C. More information and complete rankings across the country can be found at With 6,083 votes Rockford found itself in first place nationwide in the small market size category (16-30 vendors), followed by the Venice Farmers Market of Venice, FL some 475 votes behind. Our little sister, the Manistique, MI farmers market (up in the U.P., eh) finished second nationwide, with 3,208 votes, in the boutique market category (2-15 vendors) to another Florida farm market in North Port, FL. All Michiganders have much to be proud of with two small-town farm markets, strictly vending locally harvested and fresh from the field Michigan produce, rising (as cream does) to top rankings. The Rockford Farm Market has actually pulled off a trifecta in this contest. First, our Farm Market claims the prize as Michigan’s Favorite Farm Market. Second, our Farm Market claims the prize as America’s Favorite Farm Market in the small market category. And third, market categories aside, having polled higher vote totals than any market nationwide, our Farm Market has earned the right to claim it is truly, “America’s Favorite Farm Market”. Was any of this an easy task – you bet it wasn’t! Many readers are aware that your reporters have acted as volunteer campaign managers during the 13-week contest (June – August). Every Saturday morning we found ourselves at Farm Market harvesting votes from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. In the 5th week, we set up a polling site and began asking market-goers for their names and email addresses allowing us to cast their votes online. Most, if not all, willingly did so. They readily admitted they had read or seen media coverage of the contest and intended to vote but just never found the time to do so. To say that we were successful in this manner of vote gathering would be a gross understatement. Two Saturday mornings later we had […]

6, 083 voters got it absolutely right

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

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 contest results unavailable as Squire goes to press

September 1, 2011 // 0 Comments

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 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, 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. • • •

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