Mid-summer sales sizzle for local farmers markets

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published July 23, 2013

 Two-year-old Olivia Scarpace checks out some treats at the Birmingham Farmers Market July 21. Her father, Lauren Scarpace, said the family makes it a point to head to the market 
a few times each month.

Two-year-old Olivia Scarpace checks out some treats at the Birmingham Farmers Market July 21. Her father, Lauren Scarpace, said the family makes it a point to head to the market a few times each month.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

Thriving farmers markets in downtown Birmingham and Franklin prove that summer is tastier in Eagle communities.

Spread out over the parking spaces of Municipal Lot 6, the Birmingham Farmers Market continually draws visitors to Old Woodward Avenue to shop for local fruit and produce, and pick up beautiful flowers and homemade products. Now in its 11th year, the market is doing better than ever, featuring nearly 40 vendors each week.

“We have been very pleased with the Farmers Market this year. However, I would say that the best is yet to come. Over the next few weeks, the Michigan produce will come into full season at the market. Our farmers are gearing up for what is expected to be an excellent crop this year all around,” John Heiney, executive director of the Birmingham Principal Shopping District, which administers the market, said in an email.

Many of the market’s regular customers come back to see the market master, Richard “Cousin Don” Hobson, and other vendors corralled by Event Coordinator Lori Rondello. In addition to the regular vendors and live musical entertainment, the market hosts a number of special themed events throughout the season until it finally closes in late October.

One customer favorite is the booth manned by Kathy Fusilier, of Fusilier Family Farms. The 300-acre space in Manchester, just outside of the Irish Hills, yields a variety of produce, including sweet corn, cherries and some of the largest broccoli you’re likely to see, all of which is hauled down to Birmingham every Sunday for hungry local shoppers.

“We’ve been here since opening day, about 12 years ago,” said Fusilier. “On the days my kids graduate and get married, we still come to market. The customers are really nice, and we do well. I wouldn’t get up early on a Sunday morning if we didn’t.”

The Birmingham Farmers Market is a regular event on the Scarpace family agenda. Birmingham resident Lauren Scarpace said he and his family make the trek to Lot 6 two to three Sundays out of every month while the market is open.

“We come to get fresh vegetables, have lunch and go to the park across the street. It’s good exercise to walk over here,” said Scarpace.

This year, the Birmingham Farmers Market introduced new extended hours, from 9 a.m.-3 p.m.

In Franklin, tucked beneath the lush tree canopy of the Village Green on Franklin Road, is the Market on the Green. Though considerably newer than other local farmers markets, the Franklin market continues to draw customers to the village’s downtown area for unique finds like organic  coffee, natural baked goods, locally grown produce and more.

“We’re delighted to have a market here. We have (vendors) come from all over the place with so many kinds of produce and so many things,” said Jane Polan, event organizer, who added that they’re currently looking to bring a food truck to the Village Green on Sunday afternoons.

Katie Komorn, of Bloomfield Hills, said she tries to make it out to Market on the Green as often as she can to shop for items from the 14-15 vendor booths.

“I try to get a couple of things every week. It’s a good habit to get into,” said Komorn. “They have healthier food: fruits, vegetables, whole foods and allergy-aware foods. And it’s local things, as well.”

In recent weeks, market responsibilities were handed over to Heather Adams, the new market manager who also organizes the popular Oakland County Farmers Market on Saturdays in Waterford. She said the 11 a.m.- 4 p.m. Market on the Green is on course to compete with some of the more popular farmers markets in metro Detroit — if they could just get the word out that they’re there.

“This location is great. It’s shaded and very cozy. And it’s dog-friendly, too,” said Adams.

The Market on the Green is scheduled each Sunday through mid-October. For more information, visit www.franklin.mi.us. For more information on the Birmingham Farmers Market, visit www.birminghamfarmersmarket.org.