Downtown Rochester Farmers Market to open May 2

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published April 28, 2015

 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients can simply swipe their electronic benefits transfer cards at the Downtown Rochester Farmers Market information booth and receive wooden tokens valued at $1, which can be used to purchase any eligible food product at participating vendors.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients can simply swipe their electronic benefits transfer cards at the Downtown Rochester Farmers Market information booth and receive wooden tokens valued at $1, which can be used to purchase any eligible food product at participating vendors.

File photo by Donna Agusti

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ROCHESTER — The vibrant colors and flavors of Michigan’s growing season will soon make their way to downtown Rochester, officially signaling the arrival of spring.

The Downtown Rochester Farmers Market will open for its 16th season May 2 at the corner of East Third and Water Street, a block east of Main Street. The outdoor market will continue from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturdays through Oct. 31.

At the beginning of the market season, Downtown Development Authority Marketing Coordinator Nancy Voges said, marketgoers will primarily see flowers and early local vegetables.

“It’s whatever is in season in Michigan, so we are going to see a lot of flowers in the beginning of the season … (but after that) it’s a little bit of everything,” she said.

Patrons can enjoy a wide variety of Michigan-grown or made products at the market — including vegetables, fruits, container gardens, fresh cut flowers, herbs, homemade baked goods, gnocchi, jams and jellies, honey, maple syrup, and locally roasted coffee, as well as various certified organic products, including eggs, beef and chicken. The market also features specialty food products, such as seasoned meat rubs, baked goods, sauces and salsas.

Over the years, Voges said, the DDA has gotten great feedback from marketgoers.

“We listen to the customers and what they’d like to see — the customers wanted more organic, so we were able to get more organic. We are going to be doing a lot survey this year, too, to get more feedback from our customers,” she said.

Allen Park resident Mario Arredondo, who owns Juanita’s Gourmet Salsa, will bring his fresh, homemade mild and hot salsas and chips to the market once again this year. Formerly a surgical technician, Arredondo said everyone and their mother makes salsa, but no one makes a salsa as fresh, healthy and tasty as his.

With only 150 calories per pint, his salsa uses only fresh ingredients, including tomatoes, cilantro, onions, green peppers, black pepper and garlic.

“There’s no sugar added; there are no chemicals or preserves added to it. It is also gluten-free and diabetic friendly. In the handful of stores I am in, I am outselling every other salsa company hands down, no question,” he said.

Market-goers can also listen to live entertainment and participate in children’s crafts and activities, which will change each week. Children between the ages of 3 and 12 can join the The Marketeers’ Club, which allows them to participate in market activities and receive monthly notices of all upcoming children’s programs. The Marketeers’ Club is free to join.

Those interested only need to have a parent’s signature. Kids can also participate in a weekly scavenger hunt for Pete the Pineapple to win a prize.

New this season, the Downtown Rochester Farmers Market will be participating in the Double Up Food Bucks program, a seasonal program offered through the Fair Food Network that provides customers who use their federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits to shop at the market with a one-to-one match to purchase Michigan-grown fruits and vegetables.

The Double Up Food Bucks program, Voges said, gives recipients of public assistance access to fresh, healthy food while supporting the local farm economy.

As always, Voges said, she is expecting a great turnout at the market this year — especially for the opening May 2.

“We usually get over 1,000 people,” she said. “We have a lot of very faithful, repeat customers that we count on year after year, and a lot of new people, too.”

This year’s opening day festivities will include free tote bags filled with special offers from downtown merchants for the first 500 adult customers, free pinwheels for children, and live music by blues artist Paul Miles. Children can also interact with live small animals during the Upland Hills Farm Animal Show.

There will be a chance to win more than 20 $25 gift certificates donated by downtown Rochester merchants, and a chance to enter the weekly harvest basket drawing to win a collection of products donated by market vendors.

For more information, call the DDA at (248) 656-0060 or visit www.DowntownRochesterMI.com.

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