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Farmers market to continue in Eastpointe

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published March 15, 2013

 Vincent Sanna of Give and Grow Mushrooms sold his grow-at-home mushroom kits at the market during the 2012 season.

Vincent Sanna of Give and Grow Mushrooms sold his grow-at-home mushroom kits at the market during the 2012 season.

Photo by Sara Kandel

EASTPOINTE — The Eastpointe Farmers Market, now under new management, is gearing up for its second season in the city.

The market, now headed by the Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce, was the pet project of the now-disbanded Eastpointe Enhancement Commission, and many residents feared that, without the EEC, the market would become a one-season wonder. But Chamber President Jeffrey Kuehl wasn’t about to let it go by the wayside.

“The EEC operated under the umbrella of the chamber, and the chamber was always involved with the market, so when the EEC decided to part with the market, I made a commitment to the city of Eastpointe to keep it going,” Kuehl said.

“The first season was very successful, and everybody wanted to keep it going, so I am heading it up now,” Kuehl continued. “It’s hard to measure the success of a market — from our perspective, we were successful in getting a lot of people to come out and getting a lot of vendors to come out — but the true success of a market is measured by the vendors’ success, because they travel to other markets and can compare their sales at different markets.”

And the vendors say Eastpointe’s market was a huge success in its first year.

“I did very well there and was very happy with where they placed me,” said Jerry Garret, of Blake’s Cider Mill, who brought fresh produce to the market throughout the five-month season.

“I’ve been doing this for 60 years, and it wasn’t my first rodeo, if you know what I mean, and I have no complaints about the market they had there. They drew a lot of people, and the people were friendly. The management was good, and I did good there.”

Garret plans to return to the market for the 2013 season. Bryan Mazurkiewitz plans to do the same.

Mazurkiewitz is with Uncle Henry’s Gourmet Meats, a Troy-based company that offers beef and turkey jerky, smoked salmon, salmon spread, smoked Polish kielbasa and a variety of sausages, including whitefish sausage.

“We liked the market a lot, actually,” Mazurkiewitz said. “We are based in Troy, and with the area it services — Roseville, Eastpointe, south Warren — we are able to reach people we wouldn’t reach out here. We did well there. It was a very active and diverse market, and we look forward to returning.”

With support from the city, residents and last season’s vendors, Kuehl is hard at work making sure this season is better than the last.

“I’m very excited about the farmers market,” he said. “I think it will be huge this year, and I have some exciting things in the works. I want to get some entertainment and have family activities planned for each week of the market.”

Perhaps the most exciting market project is the one he’s been working on with Chamber Director Danielle Bare.

“We want to start doing (Electronic Benefit Transfer), or the Bridge Card,” Bare said. “Jeffrey and I have been going to meetings to learn how to get it facilitated, so we can get it going, and we are in the process of filling out the application for it now.”

It’s a difficult process for markets. The program is run through the state and monitored closely, but the Michigan Farmers Market Association reports that it’s well worth the time.

“There is a lot of administrative work, but it’s great for the people that use the Bridge Card and the local vendors at the market,” Kuehl said. “MiFMA said that any market that can get it implemented sees business almost double.”

The machine needed to scan EBT cards can also be used for debit and credit cards. If the market’s application is accepted, it will be able to take all forms of payment under the same program. The program runs under a chip system, where shoppers can use their bank, credit or EBT cards to purchase chips of the same value from a market booth and then use the chips to purchase items from vendors.

“We don’t know exactly how we are going to do it yet, but the idea is, every so often, each week or each month, the vendors can turn their chips into us and we pay them based on that,” Bare said. “We are pretty excited about that. It’s going to help a lot of people, especially because times are tough right now.”

With the application for the EBT program pretty much complete, Bare’s focus is now on securing vendors for the 2013 season. There were more than six-dozen vendors last year, and Bare plans to contact them all, but she also wants to reach out to new vendors.

“People love products that are made in Michigan, or made locally, and we want to offer even more of a variety of that this year,” she said.

Being made or grown in Michigan is really the only requirement at the Eastpointe Farmers Market. From jams, syrups and salsas to fresh produce and plants, and even arts and crafts, as long as it’s made in Michigan, it’s welcome at the market.

All interested vendors must submit an application to the chamber by May 1. Booths cost $30 per week, $150 for six consecutive weeks or $250 for 12 consecutive weeks.

The Eastpointe Farmers Market will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every second and fourth Saturday beginning May 11 and running through Oct. 26 at East Brooke Commons, located on the southwest corner of Gratiot and Nine Mile in Eastpointe.

For more information or to get a vendor application, contact Bare at (586) 776-5520 or director@ The Eastpointe-Roseville Chamber of Commerce is located at 23320 Gratiot in Eastpointe. Hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.