Hillsdale County Farmer’s Market will open in mid-May with extended hours. Molly Covert | Courtesy 

As spring rolls in, the board for the Hillsdale County Farmers Market begins prepa­ra­tions for the season, making changes hoping to increase par­tic­i­pation and atten­dance. This year will be the 11th anniversary of the market, which runs from mid-May through October in downtown Hillsdale.

The biggest adjustment is the hours the market will be open for business.

“The market used to be from 8 a.m. to noon but now it’ll run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.,” said Molly Covert, who has been a market vendor the past five years and whose husband serves as vice pres­ident of the orga­ni­zation. “We’re hoping to have some food and coffee vendors there to catch some of the lunch crowd.”

Another change is the new emphasis the market is placing on building com­munity. The market is har­nessing social media and the internet like never before, working to create a kid-friendly atmos­phere, and pro­viding oppor­tu­nities for college stu­dents to get involved. Ideas include make-and-take crafting work­shops, part­nering with the public library to hold book readings for children, and inviting student bands to perform live music.  

“There’s a lot of energy this year,” said Liese Szarafinski, pres­ident of the Hillsdale County Farmers Market. “A lot of ideas have been thrown into the mix. We’re more open to things than we have been in the past and I’m really excited about it.”

Covert said the market is always open to sug­ges­tions and hopes to build a rela­tionship with the college and its stu­dents.  

“We want to include the 20 – 30-some­thing crowd,” she said. “The stu­dents are always so enthu­si­astic when they come out on market days and we love you guys. We miss you when you all leave for summer. We’d really appre­ciate whatever you all could do to help spread the word and add your input.”

Cindy and Kevin Magda have been selling produce and veg­etables at the market since it opened. While not their main source of income, Magda said the market has been a great oppor­tunity to see old friends and make new ones.   

“This is the only farmers market we go to,” she said. “We really love the people. Getting to know the other vendors is great, but we espe­cially love our cus­tomers. It feels good to be able to provide some­thing safe and fresh to the com­munity. We pick our products Friday night and have them ready to sell Sat­urday morning.”   

In addition to being a social outlet, Covert said the farmers market pro­vides an important con­nection to the world around us.  

“We’re trying to educate the general public about what products are available at what time for where we are in Michigan,” she said. “We’re not a Walmart where we can have pumpkins in April and rasp­berries in October. That’s an important piece of basic knowledge and it’s being lost, espe­cially as tech­nology comes into our lives and people don’t under­stand growing seasons.”

Szarafinski encourages stu­dents, faculty, and towns­people alike to come check out the market this season.

“I think it’s really great to find locally-grown produce and lov­ingly-made items,” she said.  “It’s a fun place to be.”