Fresh produce is available from one of the market’s approximately 40 on-site vendors at the market last July.

Fresh produce is available from one of the market’s approximately 40 on-site vendors at the market last July.

File photo by Jonathan Shead

Farmington Farmers Market looks ahead to upcoming 27th season

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published February 11, 2020


FARMINGTON — Hoping to build off the successes of record-high weekly attendance, continued increases in profit and improvements in sponsorships and fundraising, Farmington Farmers Market General Manager Walt Gajewski believes “the sky’s the limit” as he looks ahead to the market’s 27th season.

“When I think about what makes a farmers market successful — what makes it hold onto and grow that success — it really comes down to the picks and shovels of it, no pun intended,” he said. “I know we will make future inroads. The future is exciting, and it’s because of the nature of the greater Farmington community itself.”

Gajewski pointed to a loyal and passionate customer base, a supportive volunteer staff and a growing variety of vendors — now including foragers, ranchers and syrup producers — for why the market has continued to grow. He said, this year, the market will add a second 100% organically certified produce vendor: Lake Divide Farm, from Stockbridge, Michigan.

He’s not ready to stop there, though.

Gajewski, who met with City Council members Feb. 3, listed a number of new initiatives that market staff will be working on this season and an important milestone they’ll be celebrating.

One major initiative Gajewski hopes to pursue this season is the reduction of plastic or at least a transition to a more eco-friendly plastic alternative.

“There’s been more public awareness being raised about the effects plastics are having on our environment and our daily lives. It’s been very prominent,” he said, adding that farmers markets are a step ahead of big box supermarkets. “Plastic is (still) very prevalent at our farm stands. It’s been the bag of choice for serving customers. … It’s more or less this initiative to find out what other markets are doing.”

Mayor Sara Bowman chimed in, expressing her support. She suggested trying to work with Fresh Thyme, which collects plastic bags from customers, to reuse those bags at the market so long as there aren’t any sanitary issues.

Hoping it will have a calming effect on the market, Gajewski is also working with vendors to include more information displays next to their tents.

“People are going to stop and read the sign. … It’s going to slow people down and help calm the market a little bit,” he said. “It inspires that the market is a resource, not just a place to buy things. When you leave the market, there’s an actual takeaway. There’s a bit of education, learning where the food comes from.”

Market attendees may also notice physical changes to the space. The walls and columns of Sundquist Pavilion will get some restorative work and a new paint job, possibly a new color scheme, Gajewski said.

“When you drive down Grand River, you might do a double take. The pavilion is going to be refreshed, and I think the community will really feel that refreshment.”

On top of new initiatives, Gajewski hopes the market’s attendance will continue to trend upward as it has in the past. He said attendance has continued to increase an average of 8% per year, with last year’s attendance setting a record of approximately 3,266 patrons per week.

If attendance continues to stay the course, the market is projected to welcome its 1 millionth customer sometime in July.  Gajewski said reaching the milestone would be “personally rewarding” and a “point of pride” for the community.

“It’s kind of like we made it to the top of the hill, so to speak,” he said.

While Gajewski has a lot of new initiatives on his plate, he said many of the market’s base factors will remain in place.

The market will continue to include weekly educational children’s activities, including the POP! Program and the Little Sprouts Corner. Many of the cultural event programs — such as Earth Day April 22, the All-American Market July 4, the fourth annual Italian American day Sept. 12, the fifth annual Polish American day Oct. 10 and many more — are scheduled to return. Weekly live entertainment will also make its way back to the market, with the potential for a new visitor.

Gajewski has been working with the Ann Arbor Symphony Orchestra, which initially reached out to the market, to perform on multiple weekends throughout the summer. He said the orchestra would also bring an instrument “petting zoo,” which would allow children to try out symphonic instruments.

While they’re not on this season’s goals list, Gajewski said he’s always hoping to foster people coming to the market using more eco-friendly methods and to foster partnerships with the downtown businesses surrounding the market. He believes getting more merchants involved would be a win-win.

The Farmington Farmers Market’s 27th season will be open 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays May 16-Oct. 31. For more information, visit