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 Jon Goetz, the owner of Goetz Greenhouse and Family Farm, pushes a cart of plants for delivery to the purchasers’ car, Barbara and Dennis Smith, of Farmington Hills.

Jon Goetz, the owner of Goetz Greenhouse and Family Farm, pushes a cart of plants for delivery to the purchasers’ car, Barbara and Dennis Smith, of Farmington Hills.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Farmington Farmers Market see continued growth

Arts and craft vendors, outdoor seating, on-site eating set to return June 13

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published June 9, 2020

 Photo by Deb Jacques Travis Schulert, owner of Great Lakes Permadynamics, stands at his booth sporting a mask during the Farmington Farmers Market, which has remained open during COVID-19.

Photo by Deb Jacques Travis Schulert, owner of Great Lakes Permadynamics, stands at his booth sporting a mask during the Farmington Farmers Market, which has remained open during COVID-19.

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Travis Schulert, a land regeneration farmer who owns and operates Great Lakes Permadynamics, displays eggs cartons for sale at the Farmington Farmers Market June 6.

Travis Schulert, a land regeneration farmer who owns and operates Great Lakes Permadynamics, displays eggs cartons for sale at the Farmington Farmers Market June 6.

Photo by Deb Jacques

FARMINGTON — Over the last month, farmers markets across the Great Lakes state, like many stores and businesses, have had to grapple with how, if at all, they would remain open to the public amidst a worldwide pandemic.

Some decided to close for the foreseeable future, while others tried to stay open at a limited capacity. For the Farmington Farmers Market, continued growth is the name of the game.

Health safety recommendations — “prescriptive guidelines,” as Market Manager Walt Gajewski calls them — such as wearing a mask, practicing routine hand washing or sanitizing, and navigational demarcation to assist with social distancing — among a list of other restrictions, like no live music or children’s activities, have been passed down to each market by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and the Michigan Farmers Market Association.

Despite these guidelines, Gajewski said, the market has continued to grow closer toward full strength, thanks in large part to the patience and cooperation of its patrons.

“There’s a real partnership here between our vendors, sponsors, volunteers and the overall community,” he said. “Our sponsors allow us to have hand washing stations and directional flow through the market with specific signage, as well as two boards with information on how to stay safe. Our vendors are certainly appreciative of the community, which overall are the rockstars of this whole song sheet.

“The community has been courteous, respectable, patient and cooperative. It’s because of that spirit our volunteers feel comfortable welcoming people.”

As the market progresses to each new week, its customer base and ability to host more vendors has continued to grow.

While opening day May 16 carried with it very restrictive guidelines, bringing in 546 people, week two saw the market ease up on the brakes a bit, adding plant and flower sales as well as allowing more than one family member. The market hosted 1,390 people that week. Week three saw the market’s number of vendors on-site increase to 24 — a 65% increase from opening day — as well as even more people returning, 1,720 people to be exact.

“It’s been considerably less traffic, but given what we’re facing — a worldwide pandemic — it’s pretty impressive,” Gajewski said.

Heading into week five, the market will see even more restrictions lifted as select arts and craft vendors will make their return, outdoor patio seating will once again be allowed, and on-site food consumption — yes, that means Petey’s Donuts — will be allowed at the comfort and discretion of each visitor. Gajewski expects roughly 2,000 people to be in attendance.

As market customers have had to learn to navigate the market’s new normal, vendors have done just the same.

Brittney Rooney, the owner of the Detroit-based Beaverland Farms, formerly Brightmoor Farms, said the differences beyond having to wear a mask have barely felt restrictive.

“Working with food, we’re always being very careful,” she said. “In some ways, it’s allowed us to go back over our food safety handling and see what extra precautions we needed to take, which we needed to double down on, and which should probably continue into the future.

“It wasn’t anything that caused our business more expenses that was unreasonable.”

Some actions taken in light of COVID-19, like the market’s pre-order program, have been beneficial for Rooney. With her farm’s primary business being wholesale to restaurants prior to this year, she said the farmers market has been “absolutely essential” for her sales, and pre-orders have allowed her to cut down wasted produce by knowing how much she’s sold before even showing up Saturday morning.

“It’s beneficial for people (too) because some of the best things we have we sell out of before 9:30 at the market,” she said, adding that she hopes pre-order sticks around after the pandemic. “Paying ahead of time guarantees them the full table.”

Customers who have been shopping at the market in person, Rooney said, seem to be shopping with more intention and purchasing more items than a customer usually does. Curbside pickup is also available.

While Gajewski personally hopes pre-orders find their way out in the long run, saying he thinks it takes away from the experience of the market, he recognizes its benefits here and now.

“It’s made the market a safer experience here in the short run for sure,” he said. He plans to continue offering pre-orders and curbside pickup “as long as the public is engaging with it” and until people feel comfortable shopping normally again.

In an ever-changing landscape, it’s hard to tell when that sense of normalcy might fully return, but Gajewski said that uncertainty isn’t stopping him from continuing to brainstorm creative ways to bolster the market back to full strength.

“We’ll be taking advantage of Riley Park and as much of the adjacent areas around the market that might be available to grow our footprint back to where we were last year,” he said. “I think there’s a very good chance we should get almost to 90% of where we were last year before the end of this season.”

For more information and up-to-date guidelines for the farmers market, visit farmingtonfarmersmarket.com/Home.aspx.