Cultivating a “GRand” farmers’ market


This past Saturday, I had the privilege of patronizing one of the finest farmers’ markets in the country for the first time – the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market in Grand Rapids.

I have visited farmers’ markets in Boston, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Greater Lansing, Ann Arbor, and several other communities around the nation.  While the Great Lakes Region is full of wonderful farmers’ markets including the enormous and endearing Eastern Market in Detroit, none I have seen is quite as well-planned, designed and user-friendly as Fulton Street.

The Fulton Street Farmer’s Market (once known as the East Side Farmers’ Market) is located on a long, linear parcel on the near east side of Grand Rapids in the wonderfully eclectic Brickyaat Neighborhood, not too far from the Wealthy Street and East Town midtown commercial districts. It celebrated its 90 anniversary in 2012. The historic (1926) administrative building is an absolute delight to see preserved as a welcoming gateway to the tremendous complex.

The roofed Farmers’ Market itself occupies in the center of this parcel and has a loop access drive around it. Each stall has separate parking spaces for each vendor to back into, while off-street parking for customers line the outside of the loop road and the north end of the complex. A bus stop for city’s “Rapid” transit system and ample bicycle parking racks are provided for those who prefer not driving a car to the site.

I found Fulton Street to be more of a “traditional Farmers’  Market” than many that become a quasi-flea market or craft show operation. That is the principal beef (bad pun) I have with downtown Lansing’s City Market – where are the farmers?

To me, the outdoor stalls are reminiscent and preferable to indoor “mall-like” markets. There is nothing quite like buying fresh produce in the crisp fall air, during a spring bounty of floral colors, or on a lazy summer day. Where else is better  to enjoy the unique sights, sounds, and smells found at a farmers’ market?  Fulton Street has become so successful, it attracts an average of 11,000 shoppers each week.

Another feature I really liked about the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market is the private and public partnerships employed to construct the updated facility.  Farmers’ markets bring such life, vibrancy, culture, and economic vitality to a city, that it is great to see both sectors contributing to the benefit of the community as a whole instead of expecting it to be solely a publicly financed entity. When you think about it, farmers’ markets are probably the best single example of promoting grass-roots entrepreneurship  and economic gardening (growing business organically and locally). If you are interested in contributing to the ongoing improvements at the Fulton Street Farmers’ Market, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation has a fundraising campaign underway.

Here are a few more photos of the bounty found at the Grand Rapids’ Fulton Street Farmers’ Market last Saturday morning.

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