Profiles in taste: Meet Dearborn’s farmers and artisans


In previous years, the Dearborn Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market took place behind the Bryant Branch Library, hidden away from main artery Michigan Avenue, for just a few short hours weekly on Fridays over the past 10 years.

 

Because it opened to customers during business hours, many people who worked day shifts were disappointed that they were never able to attend.

 

So the market has moved to its new location at West Village Commons Plaza off of Michigan Avenue starting this season.

 

“The Commons is the Downtown Dearborn event space,” says Jean Smith, Event Manager for Downtown Dearborn.

 

The hours of operation have also changed. The market, now in its 11th season and which kicked off June 1, will now be open from 2 to 7 p.m. to allow for people who work days to attend.

 

“The decision was made due to the incredible demand by the Dearborn community,” says Smith. “We continually received messages that people wanted to come to the market, but they had day jobs. So I reevaluated and suggested that we change the time and location to meet public demand.”

Jean Smith, DDA Marketing Manager

 

Smith says the new location is beneficial to both vendors and businesses that line the Commons. As the 2018 market gets underway, all are becoming acquainted and learning what the other has to offer.

 

Metromode visited the market to meet some of the vendors. Here’s who we met and what we learned.

 

Hey Honey

 

Jay Jermo of Hey Honey, who has been a regular vendor at the Dearborn market for four years, sits down with a bowl of soup from nearby Lue Thai, one of several new restaurants in Dearborn, as he talks about the market experience.

 

Jermo’s family has been peddling honey with Super Bee Apiaries in Kawkawlin, Michigan for decades.

 

Six years ago, Jermo took a break from a tour across Michigan to stop at the farm to say hello to his cousin Ned, who showed off the flavored honey that his wife Jeannette was experimenting with.

 

That meeting at the family farm led to Jermo becoming the de facto Detroit-area vendor for the honey.

 

“I was proud of them,” says Jermo. They consigned him $1,000 of honey and equipment, and before long he had sold well at the Brighton Farmers’ Market, with customers there asking him about other flavors.

Jay Termo, Hey Honey.

 

“I was making flavors up,” laughs Jermo. The original three flavors have blossomed to over 20, including chocolate, cinnamon, hazelnut, orange, and more.

 

Several people at the markets began asking Jermo if the honey was single-pollen, which is honey gathered from the nectar of only one plant species, and in turn has a unique flavor or another trait, such as color.

 

That inspired him to learn more about single-pollen honey. He now travels the globe to search for rare and exotic honey that he brings to the market.

 

And although Uncle Ned has passed away and the family considered throwing in the towel due to costs and other logistics issues, Jermo keeps showing up at the market.

 

“We have relationships with people here,” he says. “We stuck with it, and we keep coming back to develop that customer base.”

 

He has advice for others weighing the benefits versus risk in a market setting.

 

“If you sell to one person, then that is a good thing. Two people—that means there is a market for it, so just stick with it. The real secret is consistency, and Dearborn is a good market for that.”

 

Common Grace Coffee Company

 

Common Grace Coffee Company is one of the businesses right on the Commons, in a prime location for the market and other events.

 

“The feedback seems positive,” says general manager Adam Jezewski. “We have seen some new customers because of the market, and we can, in turn, go out and talk to the people.”

Adam Jezewski, Common Grace Coffee

 

Jezewski also says that Common Grace might bring the products of one of the vendors that sell cakes and pastries into the coffee shop.

 

“We have an open invite to vendors,” he says. “They can use the restroom, get some coffee. It’s great.”

 

Traffic Jam and Snug

 

Traffic Jam and Snug is one of Detroit’s quirkiest, most-loved restaurants in the city. Their menu is full of items that are homemade on site, like cheese, bread, ice cream, and herbs. They are also the first and oldest brewery in Michigan.

 

“It’s a great place to go and a great building,” says Steve Reichelt, the farmer’s market vendor for Traffic Jam. “The area is starting to pop—you have Jolly Pumpkin, Shinola, Third Man Records.”

 

Reichelt says that when people realize his products are from Traffic Jam, they almost instantly recognize the name.

Steve Reichelt, Traffic Jam.

 

“When you come to a market, 99 percent of the time, people are in a good mood, and they are happy,” he says. “They ask: what do you have, what do you make, where do you grow it?”

 

He says that the market is great for Traffic Jam because it is not that far away. And even though he was concerned with the location change at first, he has faith in Jean and the new location.

 

“Jean has great experience, and now people can get out of work and stop by,” he says.

 

He also predicts that forthcoming Wagner Place, a $60 million-plus investment by Ford Motor Company on the precipice of transforming the west downtown Dearborn landscape, will also contribute to a great market setting.

 

“People are glad to see us in the afternoons, it builds the business up.”

 

Sunset Harvest Farms

 

Whereas Traffic Jam is considered one of the more “vintage” members of the Dearborn Farmers and Artisans Market, Sunset Harvest Farms out of Belleville is one of the newest.

 

“I think this new location is going to be better,” says John Denis, who along with his wife Brittany, owns the farm.

 

It is considered a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) farm. They sell shares to members before the season, and in turn, members receive fresh produce every week and know exactly where it is from and how it was grown. The produce is non-GMO and chemical free.

John Denis, from Sunset Farm

 

Denis feels it is only natural that he sells his produce at the Dearborn market. “I grew up in Dearborn, and I went here for years,” he says.

 

Sunset Harvest offers many different kinds of produce, depending on the season. “We have a variety of veggies, and it changes with the season, and also body butter and stuff like that.”

 

POP—Power of Produce

 

There is also plenty to do for kids at the market, including the POP—Power of Produce Club.

 

Kids ages 5-12 can register for free and will receive a POP Club Badge, Reusable Shopping Bag, and a Passport to Health.

 

Every time they stop at the children’s tent at the market, they receive a stamp on their passports and two $1.00 tokens to spend at the market. The tokens can only be redeemed at the market on fresh, unprocessed produce. Vendors, in turn, will accept the tokens and be happy to discuss fruits and vegetables with the young buyers.

 

Smith is hopeful for a positive market season and continues to tweak events and little touches that make Dearborn a unique place to shop. She is working on plans to get the market into shape as a year-round mainstay.

 

“The City has been so supportive over anything I want to accomplish,” she says. “We could not be happier.”


Visit the Dearborn Farmers’ & Artisans’ Market for more information.

Read more articles by Elizabeth Clark.

Elizabeth Clark is a Dearborn-based freelance writer.
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