Nighttime Farmers Market supports local producers, Marigold Project

Next dates are Sept. 8 and Sept. 22

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 7, 2021

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HAZEL PARK — Twice a month, farmers and gardeners bring fresh produce to a vacant lot in Hazel Park and set up shop. Prices aren’t listed — instead, buyers pay what they feel is appropriate, their donations supporting farmers who provide food to impoverished communities in Detroit.  

The market is also an opportunity for people to hear live music, meet their neighbors and learn about community causes. And next month, it will be the site of a large-scale installation made from thousands of marigold flowers.   

The West End Hazel Park Business Coalition hosts its Nighttime Farmers Market every other Wednesday from 6 to 10 p.m., in cooperation with the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, in the vacant lot between 407 and 425 W. Nine Mile Road, next to Richard Gage Design Studio.

The next date is the evening of Sept. 8, followed by Sept. 22, Oct. 6 and Oct. 20, with the possibility of continuing into November depending on interest.

“We organized this as a mid-week nighttime market with live music to give people something to do that was outdoors, due to COVID, and necessary — (shopping for) food,” said Richard Gage, the artist who runs Richard Gage Design Studio, in an email. “A visitor will find a beehive of conversation with like-minded people.”

The market originally opened July 28. Fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables, are supplied by the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, which helps organize the event.

Another group is the Marigold Project, a collaboration between Richard Gage Design Studio and Anhelo Anhelo. The project distributes free marigold seedlings at the market. Attendees can also learn about the project, which involves gardeners across metro Detroit, who cultivate flowers and then donate them for a walk-through art installation that will open Oct. 22 at the marketplace.   

Other community groups also make appearances from time to time, with giveaways and information on their programs. There have been live musical performances at the market, as well, such as Victoria da Silva’s performance Aug. 25. Singer-songwriter Marbrisa will perform Sept. 8.  

“Building community is so important to our city or any city,” Gage said. “Live music gives people a reason to linger and meet a new neighbor.”

This is the market’s first year, and the Sept. 8 event will be its fourth setup. Gage said each setup usually attracts around 25 to 30 people. A local cycling club came through with an additional 30 people one evening.

“What’s really great is that I have recognized 10 or so people that have been to each market so far,” Gage said. “They are engaging with others and leave with numerous bags of produce. That makes me smile that it’s working.”

More vendors are always welcome to sign up through the website, WEHazelPark.com.   

Gage is already busy planning this year’s installation for the Marigold Project. Last year’s exhibit was an immersive experience featuring countless bright orange blooms that glowed in the sun.

“It’s late in the season for seeds and seedlings, but we still offer them,” Gage said. “We do have people sign up to participate in the sculpture build, as well as growing for next year. Our focus now is continuing to fundraise. We have masks, tinctures, refreshments and other marigold swag to sell, and people can also just donate.

“Last year’s Marigold Project used thousands of marigold blooms in a sculptural support, set in a false meadow behind curtains,” he said. “You walked into this magical environment of natural beauty assembled for that evening. You approached and entered the marigold form, which enveloped all your senses, and framed a portal to the sky. It was a rousing success that contributed more than $2,500 to the Jardon School. And all of our growers are participating again this year.”

The Jardon School is a vocational school and part of Hazel Park Public Schools.

Olivia Kinczel is the farm manager for the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. She said in an email that the farmers in her group grow their produce using organic methods.

“This is an opportunity for consumers to shift into a more environmentally sustainable diet that is healthy for their body and mind,” Kinczel said.

She said it also supports entrepreneurs who give back to communities in need.

“Shopping with us at the market means you are using your buying power to address the food security issues in Detroit by supporting the growth and distribution of quality produce, in the city, at no cost to the disadvantaged communities that we hope to serve,” Kinczel said.

The group typically gives produce away each Saturday at its farm located at 7432 Brush St. in the North End neighborhood of Detroit.

“The Hazel Park market is an opportunity for us to make some sort of revenue, and to serve as a point of outreach to gain volunteers,” she explained. “The produce is available on a donation basis at this market — prices are not listed, but donations based upon what the consumer feels is fitting and appropriate are encouraged.”

The Michigan Urban Farming Initiative is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit, so all donations to it are tax-deductible. The group is dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture, and is currently redeveloping a three-acre property in Detroit’s North End for that purpose.

“We believe that challenges unique to urban communities like Detroit — including vacant land, and food security — present a unique opportunity for community-supported agriculture,” Kinczel said. “We hope to empower urban communities by using agriculture as a platform to promote education, sustainability and community, while simultaneously reducing socioeconomic disparity.”

To learn more about the Hazel Park Farmers Market, visit WEHazelPark.com. To learn more about the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative, visitmiufi.org.

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