Farmers market: Changes in Marquette’s downtown gathering set

Shown here is produce offered by Seeds & Spores Family Farm, located in Chocolay Township. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The Downtown Marquette Farmers Marquette is bringing something new to the table by offering an evening market every Wednesday from June 12 to Sept. 25 at the Marquette Commons from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“We are really excited to offer that because Saturday doesn’t always work with people’s schedules,” said Market Manager Myra Zyburt. “There’s been talk among the vendors the last couple of years asking if there’d ever be an opportunity and what would it take, so particularly through their initiative and willingness of the Marquette Downtown Development Authority board to work with them, we came up with a plan that will hopefully work for customers, the vendors and the MDDA too.”

Although the Wednesday market starts in June, the farmers market will kick off its normal season on May 25 from 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. and run every Saturday until Dec. 14.

The 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.

This year, the MDDA increased the market’s vendor fees by over double.

“Part of the review process this year was aligning the vendor fees to match the MDDA’s budget goal,” Zyburt said. “There will also be a $2 convenient fee for all credit card purchases. Of course, all vendors take cash, some vendors have their own square or processing, but we will retain the central credit card processing, and there will be $2 charge per swipe.”

Last year, vendors paid $165 per booth for the season and $10 per day for rotating daily vendors. Vendors will pay $360 this year for the entire season, $20 per week if they’re signed up for at least seven Saturdays, $25 per week if they’re signed up for less than seven, and $30 per week for the Wednesday market.

Vendor applications were available as of April 12. So far, Zyburt said there’s been several applications turned in from new and repeat vendors.

The farmers market will continue to provide entertainment every weekend by having local musicians — which is sponsored by U.P. North Roast of Escanaba this year, educational programming about market items, food trucks on site and more.

“Echo Farm from Rapid River will offer a cheese demonstration to open the season,” Zyburt said.

Zyburt, who’s going on seven years of managing the market, said preparing for the season begins right after the season ends.

“I think we’ve continued in an upward growth,” she noted. “We have a nice balance of the returning vendors that really provide the anchorage to the market, while still being open to new vendors that provide variety, and as some vendors retire or cycle out, there’s new room for people for sure, and that adds to the vitality. We want it to be a place for everyone.”

The market is a great incubator space for people wanting to test out a business, Zyburt said.

“Marquette Baking Co. got its start there and has gone on to be a very successful bakery, it’s now in its second generation with new owners,” she said. “Superior Culture sold their kombucha here, Davin’s Chocolates — some people have even purchased property downtown and have expanded their businesses.”

This year, the farmers market will celebrate 20 years of operating in Marquette’s downtown district. The market was overseen by the Downtown Marquette Association and began in 1999 on the corner of Fourth and Washington streets with just a couple of vendors. After the association disbanded, the MDDA took over operations.

The market moved to the Marquette Commons in 2007 shortly after the public area was developed on a former railroad site.

Last year, the market averaged over 2,000 people per day, with an estimated total of 47,000 customers over the 23-week season. 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.

A new program was also piloted during the 2018 farmers market season — the Power of Produce program, which will be back again this year.

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.

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.”

For more information, visit mqtfarmersmarket.com