Farmers Market celebrates 90 years

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published October 23, 2015

 Imlay City farmer James Van Den Berg speaks with a customer at the Royal Oak Farmers Market on Oct. 17. The date marked the market’s 90th harvest season, which was celebrated by local and state officials, residents and shoppers.

Imlay City farmer James Van Den Berg speaks with a customer at the Royal Oak Farmers Market on Oct. 17. The date marked the market’s 90th harvest season, which was celebrated by local and state officials, residents and shoppers.

Photo by Victoria Zegler

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ROYAL OAK — Organic farmer Don Cinzori has traveled to the Farmers Market on Saturdays from March through December for nearly 20 years.

Royal Oak is the only market Cinzori travels to from his 300-acre southwest Michigan farm because popular specialty markets like the national grocer Whole Foods purchase his certified organically grown goods directly.

So, why do it?

“The location is fantastic,” Cinzori said. “It’s a beautiful building, great parking and we have really the most loyal customers.”

On any given Saturday, the Royal Oak Farmers Market, located on East 11 Mile Road at Troy Street, offers shoppers myriad items ranging from produce, plants and flowers, baked goods, artwork, artisanal soaps and lotions, and prepared foods.

The market also has served as the location throughout the years for many special events, fundraisers, weddings and a successful flea and collectables market operating on Sundays for the past 40 years.

State and local dignitaries gathered at the popular destination the morning of Oct. 17 to celebrate the market’s 90th harvest season with fanfare and a celebratory cake baked by Hermann’s Bakery.

“It’s evolved tremendously since we’ve first started,” said Mayor Jim Ellison. “Congratulations to 90 years, and here’s to 90 years more.”

State Sen. Marty Knollenberg attended the celebration and lauded the market’s success.

“Ninety years is amazing,” he said. “I hope I can live that long.”

Historian John Wendland curated an informative display of photos and information telling the story of the market throughout the decades.

“It really brought this community together, and the surrounding communities,” he said.

Wendland explained that the market began with a few dozen farmers operating in a parking lot on Oct. 14, 1925, at Fourth and Troy streets. The market took place on Wednesday mornings.

The 23,400-square-foot building was built in June 1927 for $78,128, and as time evolved and more women began to work outside of the home, the market shifted from Wednesdays to Saturdays.

City of Royal Oak Community Engagement Specialist Judy Davids said that with its high ceilings and exposed steel trusses, the market building was considered one of the most modern buildings of its time.

She said the market has undergone a series of facelifts over the years, including adding an outdoor colonnade, stained glass windows that depict scenes of early Royal Oak, and two cupolas adorning the roofs of the market’s east and west porches.

Davids said that as one of the few year-round farmers markets in Michigan, the Royal Oak Farmers Market also hosts monthly food truck rallies, a variety of concerts and family events.

Royal Oak Farmers Market Manager Shelly Mazur said that anywhere from 4,000 to 5,000 people come through the market each Saturday.

Kathleen Baltman said she has been shopping at the market for about 15 years.

“I live in Detroit and have a very nice farmers market in Eastern Market, but I come here for Cinzori,” she said. “His is the best.”

Baltman’s friend, Sally Stinson, also has been coming to the Royal Oak Farmers Market for about 15 years.

“We like local and we like organic,” Stinson said.

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