I’ve always been drawn to farmers markets. The bustle of gypsy like vendors, just set up for a few hours, and the ability to chat with those who produce my food is a quick win for my heart. I seek them out when I travel and always make time to sample what any given town has to offer. And I must say, our dear Mitten has its fair share of notable markets.
With all this research, I tend to believe I might be some sort of expert on markets. So, let me be the first to tell you: the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City is worth visiting a million times over. Being the Market Manager might make me a little partial, but I truly believe (and have heard from plenty of impartial parties) that this market is really something special.
First, there is the atmosphere. Tucked away along the banks of the Boardman River and just a stone’s throw from Grand Traverse Bay, Sara Hardy Farmers Market has the ingredients to create a magical place. You’ll see neighbors and old friends connecting over their favorite variety of heirloom tomatoes, and strangers sharing their secrets for canning the season’s peaches. Folks at the market are happy to be there and are building a beautiful community together.
For the perfect market adventure, I suggest making a thermos of coffee first thing in the morning and heading straight to Clinch Park for a quick dip in the bay. From there, a quick walk through the tunnel will deliver you right to the market. On that end you’ll find 9 Bean Rows, a local bakery/farm/cafe worth taking note of, where you should stop for one of their much-wanted croissants (I recommend the apricot). If croissants aren’t your thing, Old Mission Multigrain’s cinnamon rolls are to die for. Mosey through the market noting things you might want to come back for, then settle down along the river at the opposite end. Some stone steps leading down to the water make a perfect place to enjoy your coffee and croissant. Then, it’s time to shop. If you’ve gotten up early enough, the market should still be rather quiet, the perfect time to really get to know our vendors.
Which brings us to the people of Sarah Hardy Farmers Market. Our vendors are kind and helpful people who really are the stars of the market. Without them, we would just be a parking lot along the river! They are knowledgeable about everything they sell, and love to share their favorite ways to eat their products. Come to market on a Wednesday and ask Nick of Loma Farm about his garlic soup and you too will start telling all your friends the joys of the market.
But most of all, there is the food. As I write this, I’m slowly devouring a perfect French baguette from 9 Bean Rows alongside one of Natural Northern’s incredible spreads. Come on down to market and take a few minutes to sample their salsas, hummus, and other dips! Meanwhile, I’m also dreaming of the Asian slaw I plan on making with a fresh head of Second Spring Farm’s purple cabbage. And the black cherry and early red haven peach smoothie I plan to make for breakfast. The options of local meals are seemingly endless once you see what’s available!
Being the Market Manager, I hear countless comments about the market. One of the most common compliments is an appreciation for the diverse array of edibles available at the market. In a region so full of agriculture, it only seems right to offer customers a little bit of everything. Rockstar bakeries set up shop alongside local cheese makers. Your sweet tooth can always be charmed with maple syrup, honey, jams, and more. Your protein needs can be found in the form of eggs, beef, pork, turkey, and even emu. You’ll even find local milk! But local fruits and veggies are the stars of the market.
The season starts with asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries. This time of year, everyone is excited about cherries, blueberries, apricots, tomatoes, and sweet corn (don’t miss Hall’s Sweet Corn). And soon we’ll have peaches, apples, and more! But those favorites folks come looking for are only the beginning. Some of the best market finds are those less coveted. Like the variety of turnips you fall in love with after a farmer talks you into trying them (that would be the hakari turnip, for me).
So the next time you visit a market, be it Sara Hardy or another, take the time to notice the things you haven’t tried before and ask plenty of questions.
The Sara Hardy Farmers Market is open on Wednesdays (8am-noon) and Saturdays (7:30am – noon). It runs from May through October, with Wednesdays starting in June, and is located in parking lot B, along the river between Cass and Union in beautiful Traverse City.
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–Christina Carson, Market Manager, Sara Hardy Farmers Market
Having grown up in Petoskey, Christina considers herself a tried and true Northern Michigan girl. She has a BA from the University of Michigan’s Program in the Environment, where she specialized her studies in Environmental Education. Since graduating, she has spent her years helping manage the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, serving as an AmeriCorps member with the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative and SEEDS, working on small farms, and living in both the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. These days she couldn’t be happier to be back on the shores of the Great Lakes. Currently, Christina is starting a new job with FarmRaiser, organizing school fundraisers selling locally grown and produced foods. She is also the Market Manager of the Sara Hardy Farmers Market! In her free time, you can often find Christina exploring the local woods, cooking and baking for others, writing letters to friends near and far, biking, kayaking, cross-country skiing, and always with her camera in hand! Check out her photography on Facebook!