Looking back

Recap of the 2018 farmers market

MARQUETTE — As the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market wrapped up another season in December, the market’s manager says it was another successful and exciting year.

The farmers market is sponsored by the Marquette Downtown Development Authority, with the goal being to support local farmers, growers and artisans to make whole, quality food and goods available to the community. The market employs a full-time certified market manager and participating farmers and vendors employ close to 500 people, a press release states.

Offering an array of produce, artisan goods, crafts and artwork from nearly 100 vendors — with 15 new to the market this year — the season opened May 26 and ran through Dec. 15.

“Between the season and daily vendors, it keeps it interesting every week because there’s produce that rotates through the season,” said Market Manager Myra Zyburt. “There were many food producers and artisan vendors, which helps keep the market dynamic. You have that consistency from week to week where you can come and get things that you know will be there, but there’s also those little surprises that’ll hopefully also bring people back.”

The farmers market will celebrate 20 years of operating in Marquette’s downtown district this year. The market began in 1999 on the corner of Fourth and Washington streets with just a couple of vendors, Zyburt said. Kim Danielson, the former owner of Babycakes Muffin Co., was a big part of organizing the events in conjunction with the Downtown Marquette Association.

“That was a member-based organization which dissolved, and that’s when the Marquette DDA, which had been in operation but in some different functions, took over the market,” Zyburt said.

The market moved to the Marquette Commons shortly after the public area was developed on a former railroad site in 2007. The market has continued to grow since the transition, Zyburt said.

Customer attendance during the summer market season averaged over 2,000 per day, with an estimated total of 47,000 customers over the 23-week season. Many shoppers often wander to local businesses in the downtown district to browse and shop some more.

The estimated sales at the market through the season was more than a half million dollars and over $43,000 was distributed in food access benefits.

The market accepts cash, credit/debit cards, SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, WIC Market FRESH, Senior Project FRESH and Hoophouses for Health.

“With SNAP, there’s a grant from the Fairfood Network for Double Up Bucks, so anybody using their SNAP is eligible for a matching grant weekly up to $20,” Zyburt said. “So that right there, if you take $20 off your Bridge Card, you’ve got $40 to spend on food, which is huge.

“Hoophouses for Health is tied to the Kellogg Foundation initiative that took place about seven years ago. Their intent was twofold — meaning it was to increase farmers’ infrastructure and expand their season to grow more, with the idea that the additional food would go to qualified families.”

Zyburt said 11 farmers participated in the program.

“So, they have a new hoop house and they’re paying it back with the benefits from the qualified households,” she said. “When those households shop at their farms, the amount that they spend is deducted from a portion they owe on their loan. Through that, we had $25,000 of loan distributed in that program.”

A new program was also piloted during the 2018 farmers market season — the Power of Produce program.

The Upper Peninsula Health Plan was the major underwriter of the program, Zyburt said, along with contributions from the Orthodontics Specialists of Marquette, Lions Club of Ishpeming and Negaunee, ACHIEVE Coalition of Marquette County and Partridge Creek Farm. With over 500 children participating, every Saturday there was a featured produce to taste and an activity, while children received $2 to shop for their own choice of produce. Coupons could also be saved and combined for later use.

“In this big of a market it’s good to have something geared toward the kids,” Zyburt said. “They just had fun exploring the market, meeting the farmers, trying new things, food tasting in conjunction with those vouchers. The vendors also really enjoyed seeing kids getting involved with different produce.”

Along with weekly performances by local musicians, the market also partnered with numerous organizations to provide educational programming about products, nutritional benefits and new ways to prepare different items. The market offered six food tasting demonstrations, including Sarah Monte of the Marquette Food Co-op and Alex Palzewicz from Taste the Local Difference, who each provided two demonstrations; Gina Eggers, a home cook, who provided a pasta tasting; and Vicki Ballas of MSU Extension.

Among the vendors were End of the Road Winery of Germfask, 231 West, artist Jeffrey Pruitt, Superior Culture, self-published authors, Aunt Lillian’s Mustard, and more.

“There were also two different vendors who made dog treats,” Zyburt said. “One of the vendors focused on using Great Lakes region ingredients and the other had vegan dog treats, so there were even things for your favorite four-legged friend at the market. It’s just fun to see the vendors have fun with their businesses and representing their product and being a part of the merchant community in Marquette.”

The vendor fees for 2018 were $165 per booth for the season and $10 per day for rotating daily vendors. Total vendor fees paid for the entire season were $15,639. The total cost of operating the famers market for 2018 totaled $58,113. The DDA supplement to the market operating for 2018 was $33,778.

The Downtown Marquette Farmers Market has been recognized by Lake Superior Magazine as “Best of the Lake;” listed as one of the “9 best farmers markets in Michigan” by bestthingsmi.com, and recognized by onlyinyourstate.com as one of the “10 incredible farmers market in Michigan that are a must visit.”

This season’s farmers market season is anticipated to begin May 25, and will continue every Saturday until December.

For more information, visit https://mqtfarmersmarket.com

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is jdepew@miningjournal.net.