For a fourth consecutive year, the Farmington Farmers Market took top honors in WDIV-TV’s Vote 4 the Best competition among metro Detroit markets.
Online voters determine the winners in multiple categories. The downtown market soared to the top in a field of 20 nominees, and locals say that’s neither luck nor accident.
Extra special win
Market Manager Walt Gajewski said this year’s win is extra special, considering the uncertainty of the past few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There were so many unknowns, beginning with, were we even going to open the market, and then redoing our operating model, keeping up with and implementing state guidelines,” he said. “And now, here we are, more than 10 weeks into the season, and over 20,000 people to date have enjoyed direct access to fresh grown local produce from Michigan farms.”
Gajewski said the award is a tribute to the greater community, volunteers, sponsors, city leaders, and Farmington’s public safety and public services departments, who are “the pulse behind Saturday life in a Michigan small town.”
Farmington Mayor Sara Bowman described the win as “hard-earned and well-deserved. It’s another feather in the cap of what makes Farmington great.”
“It’s no accident, and definitely not luck, that the market has earned the top title four years in a row,” she said. “The attention to detail and emphasis on ensuring our farmers meet the highest standards definitely set us apart. While we enjoy the Market from May through October, it is a year-round labor for Walt. He personally visits each farm to guarantee we receive the best quality, products, and service.”
A-plus vendors, feel-good community
Wright Beamer Attorneys has long supported the market as a sponsor, attorney Dirk Beamer said.
“I served as President of the Downtown Development Authority when we inaugurated the park and pavilion, and since then, our firm has tried to support the market in any way possible,” he said. “The market reflects what is best about the greater Farmington community: local volunteers, a friendly and diverse crowd, easy access and walkability, and a commitment to things done right.”
“When you put A-plus vendors and their products in the heart of a feel-good community, you turn shopping into an outing,” he added. “The market’s not an errand, it’s an event. And a great event at that.”
Bowman said she is personally grateful to each of the volunteers who set up every Saturday morning in downtown Farmington. “They truly set us apart from other markets, and it’s something I hear over and over from visitors. Even the masks cannot hide the warm welcome we all receive at the entrance gate.”
Banding together for the market
Volunteer coordinator Mary Martin said the market has had a core group from the beginning of the season, and others have joined along the way. The majority are seniors, an “at risk” population. Some work 2-hour shifts at the entrances and exits, others stay for the day.
Thanks to donations from Beaumont Health, kits provided by Oakland County, and a donation of “market masks” from Bowman, Saturday volunteers receive masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and water at the beginning of their shifts. Martin said it’s important for volunteers to know they’re safe and appreciated.
Another volunteer puts in long hours behind the scenes, as well as on market days. Peggy Castine helps with marketing and maintaining farmingtonfarmersmarket.com, which has proved quite an undertaking with vendor information and pre-orders as part of the mix, Martin said.
Volunteers are kept in the loop with the latest COVID-19 developments; Gajewski regularly shares information about market operations.
“Everyone is banding together to make sure the market still succeeds,” Martin said. “That is as important to the volunteers as it is to the city, to Walt, and to the vendors… They know what it takes to get there, and they’ve been part of that.”