October 17, 2012 - This year marks the 8th season of market Saturdays in Clarkston. Our new location on Waldon Road at the Renaissance High School parking lot provided an opportunity for the market to gather once more and celebrate the abundance of the Michigan Harvest of local fruits, flowers, vegetables and so much more.
Michigan is second to California in the ability to grow the wide variety of foods we are always hungry for.
This season had challenges beyond any other – one being the early thaw after a mild winter that allowed for the budding of Michigan's fruit trees and the early emergence of the honeybees from their hives. Many of us initially guessed this might be an overabundant year for these crops, however, the freeze that followed in late spring erased the possibilities of the maturity of these fruits and killed the blossoms.
Apples, peaches, plums, cherries, apricots – you name it – fruit and flowers in Michigan took a severe hit this season. As we are aware, honey production then, declined.Tomatoes though! Wow, we had more than we knew what to do with. They ripened faster than most people could can them.
In the move from the lot across from Depot Park, we lost a few farmers and a few shoppers who were miserable about losing the idea of the charm and ambiance and the way the market used to wind itself along the river. Most people don't like change. Shoppers expressed missing the proximity of the market to the downtown businesses and the feeling of the market coming to life on Saturday mornings right up in town.
However an equally strong front of new people arrived at the market this season. Folks in wheelchairs, parents pushing strollers, and cyclists found the school site to be much more user-friendly and accessible. Many of our growers reported having a record year in sales.
I was born out West but since I grew up in Clarkston from the age of 4, went through the Clarkston Schools system, and loved being in town as a child. I felt the charm of both sites and even got to reconnect with my junior high computer teacher, Ray Cooper. Ray managed the building each Saturday this summer for us. I remember when Downtown Clarkston had our own little bookstore, ice cream shop, and apothecary.
I remember Tierra Arts and Daisy Chain Gifts, and the restaurant in the Old Mill Mall. I remember Rudy, feeding the pigeons and I fished and skated on the Mill Pond. I come from a lineage of farmers (as many of us do) and I've always loved fresh food.I am glad to have been a part of bringing a farmers' market to our town.
To my mind, a good farmers' market should be a win-win-win-win-win. A win for the farmers, the consumers, the city, the local ecology, and for the health and longevity of our children – the next generation. Research suggests markets do best when they are given a space within the historic districts of the town they serve. Area farms are preserved and kept productive when a city creates the possibility of an outlet for their produce, either by funding a market or providing the resources for a market to thrive.
A Farmers' Market keeps money spent locally. Restaurants get more attention when a market is nearby because people are already thinking about food, and when humans are done eating they sometimes like to linger in local shops and parks.
Some systems of thought say eating locally grown goods and produce is healthier, and organic is of the highest quality. Our market welcomes both conventional and organic growers so people can choose the way their food was grown. We know what we feed our children has a direct impact on the quality of their lives.
Being a full-time elementary school teacher of 7-,8- and 9- year olds, and running the market in the summer, I get to see directly how nutrition supports our children's growth from year to year.
I would like to again extend the reaches of gratitude to Ed Adler and Bob Roth for the use of their lot in the early years of the farmers' market. For even as I view the market through a different lens than they do, and know we cannot charge the farmers more than we currently do, I continue to hold an appreciation for Ed and Bob's generosity displayed, in allowing the market to run on their empty parking lot on summer mornings at no charge.
Usually businessmen and women like to think in terms of compensation, but there was something very special about the way the market got to gain some footing in Clarkston has partially to do with them not thinking that way for a few years. When those of us with unused resources, allow those resources to be put to use by younger generations, we can creatively bring in delightful things. Now because of that and a lot of hard work and dedication by many others, Clarkston has a Farmers' Market that is still growing and still looking for support.
The charge of excellence goes to the Clarkston Community Schools this year, in seeing the value in the Clarkston Farmers' Market and offering their unused lot for the farmers and shoppers to gather – thank you sincerely.
Next season is under construction. I continue to have many ideas for our market. Hopefully as the winter unfolds, those ideas will become clearer. Anyone who wants to offer opinions and ideas, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anissa Howard is founder and director of Clarkston Farmers' Market