1147 E. Fulton Steet, Grand Rapids, MI 49503
May – December: Tuesday, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
January – April: Saturdays only from 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
I sat down with Market Manager Melissa Harrington (pictured left), and Development Project Manager Christine Helms-Maletic (pictured right) to chat about today’s farmer’s market.
How many vendors do you have at the market?
Harrington: We have 118 vendor spaces, with an average of 60 being taken on a Saturday. Over 300 unique vendors come throughout the season. The furthest vendor comes from a hundred miles away. Our longest multi-generational vendor has been here since 1935. When one of our vendors was born, his family stopped at the market before going home.
What product do you sell the most of?
Harrington: It really depends. We have so much here. The Michigan cherries, blueberries, and strawberries are popular now. Then there are the early greenhouse tomatoes.
Maletic: And the variety of greens, granola, eggs, cheese…
Harrington: …bagels, breads. Meats are all season long.
Maletic: Early in the spring we have bed plants and flowers. Hanging plants are big, especially on Mother’s Day. I’m trying to think of some of the stranger things we have here. Sometimes people make dog treats. There’s also coffee and kettle corn.
Have you seen an increase in customers? What do you attribute the increase to?
Harrington: This year we hit the season off running. Our busiest month is August. We’re getting 10,000 customers in a week. We have a new facility with roofs for the rain.
Maletic: This whole set up is new. It used to be just tents and poles. We got good media coverage the first week.
Harrington: People share stories from long ago about when the market had live chickens and they would steal watermelons to eat in the alley.
Maletic: One customer was telling us how great it was to come back here when there’s music. It’s like a festival. People feel like this is their market, and they’re invested in it doing well. They give us suggestions all the time.
Are your customers mostly local?
Harrington: They’re collecting that data right now. Majority come from within three to four miles. Even with the renovation, we consider ourselves a community market.
Maletic: It’s like a donut the radius where people come in. We’re trying to get more of the people within one mile by offering things like the bus and bike racks.
What makes your market the best in the state?
Maletic: American Farmland Trust held a nationwide competition between farmer’s markets, and we came third in the nation. We have a great diversity of product. I could eat off of what we just have here.
Harrington: Our vendors are nice and friendly.
Maletic: It’s a very urban market with lots of people with different backgrounds and ethnicities. It’s hip!
Harrington: We’re in our 90th year, so something must be right.