Farmington farmers market ready to open 2021 season after a record-breaking 2020

It was only a little over a year ago when Walt Gajewski, manager of the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market, was unsure if the 2020 market season would take place, an uncertainty wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 market would take place, albeit with less than half the vendors a typical season would host. Remarkably, despite a late start and a reduced number of vendors, the Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market would break a number of attendance records in 2020, welcoming their one millionth customer since first opening in 1993. In 2020 alone, the market welcomed more than 88,000 people over the course of the season, which typically runs from May through October.

It was their busiest year yet.

“We surpassed the previous year’s record by 10,000 people,” Gajewski says.

Gajewski and the Farmington team of volunteers and vendors hope to build off that momentum in 2021. Opening day for the 2021 season is this Saturday, May 8.

“We didn’t hit our stride last year until about two months into the season. We’re starting at a much better place this year,” Gajewski says.

The 2021 season will incorporate last year’s safety protocols, including social distancing efforts, face mask requirements, and a “no-touch” policy when purchasing food — vendors bag food items for the customers. Customers can still pre-order produce for curbside delivery. And at an expanded 40,000 sq. ft., the market offers plenty of space for people to comfortably move around.

But the 2021 season will also bring back much of what was missed at the start of last year’s season, including live music and vendors serving ready-to-eat food. While last year’s market hosted 14 vendors, this year’s market will host 40, a number more in line with the pre-COVID years.

This year will also feature the traditional opening day festivities, including the ringing of the market bell, music and marching from the local American Legion post and high schools, and appearances from the mayor, Miss Farmington, and more.

Opening day festivities begin at 9 a.m.

“I think people are ready to experience the sights, sounds, and local color of Saturday life in a Michigan small town,” Gajewski says. “The market provides an aspect of community life that people really want to get back to.”

This year’s market also features new attractions, like the new walking group the Farmington Walkabouts, which will meet at the market each Saturday morning for a scenic one-mile fitness walk.

This will also be the first year the market opens with the social district rules in effect. The market falls under the footprint of The Syndicate, allowing for guests to purchase alcoholic beverages from nearby establishments and stroll the produce stands.

“I think it’s going to give a ‘Euro’ feeling to it,” Gajewski says. “It’s an experience that is more common to Europe than what you see in America.”

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MJ Galbraith is a writer and musician living in Detroit. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.