Haunted Farmington Farmers Market closes a strong season

In what seems like the blink of an eye, the 2019 Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market season will close Saturday, with plenty of music and family fun.

About 45 vendors will be selling local produce and Michigan-made products from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Walter E. Sundquist Farmington Pavilion in downtown Farmington.

Power of Produce
A Farmington/Farmington Hills Foundation for Youth and Families grant supports the Power of Produce program.

Saturday will also be the final meeting of the POP (Power of Produce) Club, which has introduced scores of children ages 4-12 to new foods and some of the market’s growers. Peggy Castine, who coordinates the program with Julie Stevens and Lisa Alberts, said attendance over the previous four meetings nearly doubled last year’s, from 179 to 355.

“I was surprised by the increase,” she said. “I think we promoted it better, we got fliers to all the schools. But I think a lot of kids are just walking by (the tent) and see something going on.”

Thank you to growers

That something involves tasting a new fruit or vegetable, going on a produce-related scavenger hunt, and engaging in a hands-on activity. When kids complete all three, they receive a $3 voucher to buy healthful produce from a participating grower.

Power of Produce
Farmers and kids connect through the Power of Produce.

Activities during the Haunted Market, Castine said, will be tasting ground cherries, a fruit from Brightmoor Farms that develops a husk and falls to the ground when it’s ripe; finding bitter melon, a fruit with a prickly skin, at Xiong’s Fresh Asian Produce; and trying to identify items in four covered, Halloween-themed boxes.

Kids will also write thank you notes to the participating farmers.

“The farmers’ co-operation makes the program work, from fielding questions to handling the special vouchers to listening to almost 100 silly farmer jokes, which the staff at Springbrook Gardens of Farmington did for one of our challenges,” Castine said.

Sponsors for the 2019 POP program were Beaumont, Farmington Hills and the Farmington & Farmington Hills Foundation for Youth and Families.

Pumpkins, bounce house, ventriloquist 

Boytoe & Lazareth
Boytoe & Lazareth (facebook.com)

Market Master Walt Gajewski said merchants and growers are also supplying more than 400 pumpkins, offered free for kids to decorate. Many vendors will dress up in costume and offer Halloween treats.

Market entertainment will include a bounce house, music by Bob Monteleone, ventriloquist act Boytoe and Lazareth, and the Steve Hoops hula hoop show, with pyrotechnics.

Freedom Gateway Center, a Farmington church, takes over the Little Sprouts tent with a photo booth, crafts, and skits performed every hour starting at 10:30 a.m.

Record attendance

Gajewski said this market season has been particularly enjoyable, because of the sense of community and harmony. “There’s a relaxed nature about it. This is how people spend their Saturdays.”

Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market
(Contributed)

Ahead of the final market, attendance has averaged around 3,300 per week, trending toward a new record. It’s up by 7 percent for the fourth consecutive year, having spiked with the opening of Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, located just a stone’s throw from the market.

While some – including Gajewski – were concerned that the store might hurt the farmers market, people have gotten used to buying their locally grown produce and other goods at the market, and then walking a short way to do the rest of their shopping.

“It became a real partnership,” Gajewski said. “It works. It just works.”

Saturday’s market is likely to be a busy one, and there will be other Halloween-related activities going on in downtown Farmington. To view a parking map and other market information, visit farmingtonfarmersmarket.com