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.”