Back in 1993, a handful of farmers began selling produce from their trucks in the parking lot in the Village Commons Mall in Farmington. Then in 1996, with encouragement from Market Master Walt Gajewski, a planning partnership between the city and Wayne State University was formed.
This committee envisioned the farmers’ market as the focal point for downtown Farmington. In October 2005, construction of the pavilion completed and opened as the new 30,000 square foot Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market.
This year marks the market’s 25th Anniversary and second year of winning Best Farmers Market award by WDIV’s Best of Detroit awards.
Every week, 40 or more vendors, including local 15 farmers, provide fresh products grown within 400 miles of Farmington. From produce to artisan crafts, to children’s activities and weekly live entertainment, to delicious and hot apple cider doughnuts, it is no wonder why Farmington receives 80,000 visitors each year.
Cooking demonstrations make the market even more appealing for visitors.
“We have a chef’s series called ‘Cooking in the Market,’” says Gajewski. “For example, John Cowley & Sons was at the market with a generations-old family recipe demonstrating Irish potato soup.”
“One of the great things about our market is there’s certain solidarity amongst all of the vendors,” adds Gajewski.
Metromode visited the market to meet some of the vendors and shoppers in the pavilion. Here’s who we met and what we learned.
Mark and son Steve McCoy, McCoy Farms certified organic produce.
Mark McCoy, his wife Donna and their son Steve grow a variety of certified organics including arugula, spinach, organic eggs, and hay throughout each season. They have an 80-acre farm in Imlay City where they grow through 54 acres of hay and 3 acres of vegetables.
“The market has a good crowd, and the numbers are usually very high,” Mark McCoy says. “It seems like a lot of young people like us too; they buy a lot of our salads.”
“Being the only certified organic vendor here, people look for us.”
Though the McCoy’s are in their 2nd year of selling USDA certified organic produce at the Farmington Farmers Market, they have been in business for seven years.
“People come out to our farm every year, and they inspect our chicken coops, our farm, our barns, our water, everything. It’s a big process,” he says.
Zehra Bhinderwala, Rose Best natural soap products.
Zehra Bhinderwala from Farmington Hills, sells all natural soap products as well as natural body butter, foot scrubs, lip balms and relaxing eye masks at the Farmington market. Some of the ingredients in her products are cocoa butter, avocado oil, beeswax, and other naturals.
Rose is one of the more popular soaps, which is intended for full body use.
“Even though people think rose is strong, it’s the best for the most sensitive skin,” says Zehra. “My body butters helps heal cuts and my clients include doctors who love them. It is a wonderful feeling to see people enjoy the soaps.”
Bhinderwala’s entrepreneurial journey began when she started making soaps in 1998 with a group of friends and was encouraged by her sister to continue making them. She eventually marketed her brand and has had a great response ever since.
“I have been selling at the Farmington Farmers Market now for seven years, and it is great to see my repeating customers say how much they enjoy the products,” says Zehra.
“I don’t do anything to fluff up the product so that a small jar will last you two months. You will find it provides a little bit of warmth because of the natural oils. Within a week, you’ll see a change in your hands.”
Janice Maksimovski specializes in Polish baked goods, cakes, and other sweets, and operates her bakery in Detroit. The items for sale are always made the night before so that patrons can count on fresh, flavorful sweets from her stand.
“Our popular items are everything pumpkin, poppyseed and also our Chrusciki (angel wings),” Janice says.
“We are a regular bakery with everything in it, and we specialize in cakes.”
Plymouth resident Michael Bradford has been selling savory and sweet cheesecakes at The Farmington Farmers Market for six years and says it has been a great business.
“It’s great because it’s low startup costs so that you can test your idea,” Bradford says. “It’s not much to lose if it doesn’t work out. Also, the Farmington Market is very well run and has a nice variety of vendors. Some farmers markets are like a craft show, but this is more focused on the farmers.”
Patrons who purchase Bradford's items receive the cheesecakes in frozen form, which is stored in a large Igloo cooler at the market. Westport Market in Berkley also sells Cheesecake Etcetera’s products, including their brownies.
“People love it,” he says. “I love it too, but the funny thing is I never liked cheesecake until I made it. I was like, ‘Oh this is how it should taste, versus the commercially produced stuff.”
“The most popular flavor sold depends on the season, but usually it’s the four packs because you get a variety,” he says.
One of the seasonal packs includes the combination of pecan pie, apple caramel, pumpkin and chocolate mocha called “The Classics” because Bradford says “there’s something for everybody.”
Alan, Debbie, and Phantom the Dog
Debbie, Alan and Phantom Isner. Photo by David Lewinski.Alan and Debbie Isner and their dog Phantom love coming every week to the market primarily to buy produce.
“It’s all Michigan produce, local farmers, they let him (Phantom) come, but mostly we like supporting the local farmers,” says Alan. “Everything is always so fresh and it’s obviously in season. Right now, my wife is buying mushrooms. There’s the cheesecake guy over there, they are amazing cheesecakes.”
“My wife generally plans what we are going to have for meals for the rest of the week around what we buy here.”
Uhlianek Specialties from the Farm
Chuck Hancock, Assistant at Uhlianuk Farms. Photo by David Lewinski.
Lee Uhlianek, from North Branch, Michigan continues his family’s 55-year, multi-generational tradition of selling products at farmers markets.
“My grandparents came over from Russia and farmed, and we’ve been farming, we’re the third generation, and my son Ben will be the 4th generation,” says Lee. “He just turned 12.”
Xiong’s Fresh Asian Produce
Jessica and Tout Xiong, Xiong's Asian Greens. Photo by David Lewinski.
Tou Xiong and his daughter, Jessica, are from Emmett, Michigan and say their produce is better and longer lasting than store-bought produce, which they usually import from out of state farms.
“The vegetables that I put here I picked yesterday and sell today,” says Tou. “People taste it, they like it, they take it home, and the shelf life is longer, last for about two weeks in the frig. You can truly taste the flavor of it.”
Travis and Maranda Shulert, Shulert Farms. Photo by David Lewinski.
Travis and his wife Maranda Shulert work from their farms from Jackson, Michigan go by their motto, “no-till, no chemicals, no-nonsense.” They use permadynamics methodology which includes using no fertilization, amending the soil with food from microbes, and fighting pests with beneficial insects.
“The most popular here is probably our microgreens, we’ve got sunflowers today and radish, so that’s a big seller for us, so is our lettuce mix but we’re sold out right now,” Maranda says.
The Farmington Farmers and Artisans Market occurs every Saturday from June through October. It is located at the intersection of Farmington Road and Grand River Road in downtown Farmington.
The market will have its last weekend by celebrating the Grand Finale on Saturday, October 27 which will include a haunted Farmers Market and the Annual Halloween Fun Festival, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Walter E. Sundquist Pavilion in George F. Riley Park. Fun activities include face painting, a bounce house, trick or treating and more.
Farmington Farmers & Artisans Market is located downtown Farmington, at 33113 Grand River Ave, Farmington, Michigan 48336. For more information, visit www.farmingtonfarmersmarket.com.