With city council approval, the Farmington Farmers Market will start a week earlier in 2021 – and may extend its season into November.
Market manager Walt Gajewski told officials Monday that, despite COVID-19 pandemic changes – such as the absence of special events – the 2020 market saw a record 88,442 visitors. In addition, he said, it turned a profit.
Gajewski credited sponsors with providing support even though they faced their own challenges.
“It was very hard for me to … ask for financial help when most, if not all, of these folks were in the same boat, but they believed in what the mission of the market is,” he said. “I thought we were going to take a substantial loss, but the market wound up being very profitable.”
Gajewski also credited a “massive volunteer effort” coordinated by Mary Martin, as well as cooperation from the community. He estimated at least 99.5 percent compliance with a mask-wearing requirement, and shoppers adjusted well, he said, to new safety rules.
Goals for 2021 include continued safe operating practices, farm inspections, and resuming events, the Power of Produce program for kids, health screenings, and visits from Master Gardeners and the Farmington Community Library. Retaining the market’s WDIV-TV Best Of title is also on the list.
Gajewski said he’d also like grow the market’s partnership with the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), through merchant participation, merchandising, and promoting DDA initiatives. He said this year’s Grand Raven Festival was a good fit for the market.
Council members approved a May 8-October 30 calendar, with the market open Saturdays, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Early birds can arrive as early as 8 a.m., another measure to help with social distancing, Gajewski said.
The market may also extend beyond October 30, “contingent upon weather and market conditions, that we have the produce and the harvest to do it,” he added. The final 2020 market, an extra day on November 7, drew more than 4,000 attendees.
Mayor Sara Bowman said the market was a “fantastic, safe draw to get people downtown. I really believe you gave a boost to our businesses on the weekends.”