For local farmers, residents, and college students, the Saturday morning farmers’ market in downtown Hillsdale is a beloved tradition.
The Hillsdale farmers’ market, which began in 2008, brings a variety of vendors from the surrounding townships to set up shop every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Hillsdale County Courthouse Square. Vendors sell anything from produce, to flowers, to homemade preserves and handspun yarn.
“We’ve been doing the farmer’s market since it started, so this is our tenth year,” Magda’s Produce co-owner Cindy Magda said. “We always try something new every year, so we have a new variety of melon, or new variety of pumpkins, there’s always something new we try every year. Everything’s grown on our farm, seven miles north of Jonesville,” Magda said.
In addition to vegetables, Magda’s Produce also sells fruit from a cousin’s farm.
Magda and her husband, Kevin, are the second-generation of produce vendors, with their friend, Kristin, helping them maintain the stand during market season. The husband-and-wife team explained that they inherited the produce business from Kevin Magda’s parents, who were also Hillsdale farmers.
“Kevin parents have grown vegetables and produce and sold them for like 40 years, before we started this,” Cindy Magda said. “They always sold at the fairgrounds, there used to be a big farmers’ market there. Since Kevin and I married, we’ve just sort of taken it over.”
Though many sell produce, vendors bring an eclectic mix of wares to the farmers’ market. Horticulturalist and vendor Molly Covert said she started her stand four years ago, because she “enjoys her plants and and sharing them with others.”
“Everything is grown in my own gardens, and I find the containers at different garage sales and thrift stores, antique stores,” Covert said. “I just enjoy the repurposing and finding something new out of something old.”
Covert explained how she crossbreeds some of her own plants to “produce new varieties.”
“I have a pretty good following,” she said, “and every year a few of them in particular come and look for new varieties…The people that are horticulturalists come and enjoy seeing what’s new.”
Covert, who brings her flowers from Hudson, Michigan, added that vendors are “always glad when the students come back,” though she also has several regular local customers.
Some of the market regulars include Hillsdale College faculty and their families.
Associate Professor of Psychology Collin Barnes and his family have been visiting the farmers’ market for three years. Though Barnes pointed out that his wife attends more frequently than he, the market holds appeal for the whole family.
Barnes’ daughter Paige and son Drew called the cake pop and pie stands their favorites.
“They have miniature pies that I like to look at, that are really yummy,” Drew Barnes said.
Collin Barnes said he has been eying a certain chess set for a while.
“There’s actually a woodworker, who is not here today, but he has this chess set that he makes, they’re rather large pieces. I’ve always wanted it, but it’s also very expensive. So, I look with longing,” he said.
Senior Grace Houghton, exploring the market for the first time Saturday, said she “liked it a lot.”
“They have a variety of food, home decor, homemade preserves: it’s cool,” Houghton said, adding that she would “definitely be back.”
A common draw to the market are the health benefits of eating local produce and using simply-made products, a sentiment which Houghton echoed.
“I bought a shampoo bar, from the Lady Bee stall, and it’s an avocado conditioning shampoo bar. I like that I know all the ingredients: I feel very hippie and very healthy,” she said.
But most people come to the market because of the “community spirit.”
“It’s a great group of people, between little kids that come, and older folks that come at 8:00 in the morning to get their produce,” Covert said. “It’s a really nice, eclectic mix.”
Cindy Magda echoed her sentiment.
“We love it, it’s fun, coming back and seeing people you haven’t seen in a year,” she said. “It’s like a homecoming, almost, every year.”