What's ahead for the Midland Area Farmers Market?

Between the breaching of the Tittabawassee River dam system in 2020 and the near shutdowns of many businesses caused by the pandemic that began spreading almost three years ago, it had been anyone’s guess where the Midland Area Farmers Market might be at that time.
Immediately though, the Great Lakes Loons stepped up and offered the use of its East parking lot, with its ample space for social distancing for vendors and customers alike, and its ample parking that alleviates congestion for patrons carrying their purchases.
 Sarah Longstreth of Good Stead Farm, masked-up in 2020, sells fresh produce including lettuce, salad greens, microgreens, garlic, tomatoes and carrots.
So the parking lot has served as the home of the Farmers’ Market after a wall of water unleashed from the failures of dams along the Tittabawassee River in May 2020  forced it from its legacy home at the base of the Tridge along Ann Street between Ashman and Rodd streets downtown.
That disaster also prompted business leaders to evaluate where the popular market might best serve the vendors and the thousands of customers who flock to the three-season venue now at Dow Diamond East parking lot.
 Tony Stamas, President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance.
That evaluation is still ongoing," says Tony Stamas, Midland Business Alliance (MBA) President and CEO, “It is our intention to take this time to locate a long-term option for the Farmers Market.”
To that end, the MBA, the organization that manages the Farmers’ Market, says it is planning to remain at the current location of Dow Diamond’s East parking lot through the 2023 and 2024 Farmers Market seasons. 
Beyond that, ideas for the market's future can be submitted to the MIdland Business Alliance through Friday (Oct. 21, via a Facebook survey). Stamas says the survey has more than 1,000 responses to date.
Calling the stadium parking lot a “temporary home,” the MBA in a press release that it will use the time to study its options for the future.
“As much as we would love to continue in the wonderful setting by the Tridge, data tells us that the best decision for our community, market customers and vendors is to look at alternatives,” says Stamas, “It is our intention to take this time to locate a long-term option for the Farmers Market.”

 The Midland Area Farmers Market was able to relocate in June 2020 to the main parking lot at Dow Diamond.
The Loons, too, welcome the extension. “We are happy to lend a hand to the Midland Business Alliance and Midland Area Farmers Market for another two years,” says Chris Mundhenk, President & General Manager of the Great Lakes Loons. “Dow Diamond is known to be a community gathering place and we’re happy to continue our great partnership to provide a temporary home.”
The site has proved popular, allowing the market to house more than 50 businesses to be in attendance at one time during the Saturday market and 75 overall this year. More than 5,000 people attend in one day during the height-of-season Saturdays.
 Nate's Cart is one of the hot food vendors at the Farmers Market.
“We have been thrilled to be able to accommodate more Market Goers in our space, especially all the ages who utilize wheels for transportation” Market Manager Emily Lyons says. “On any given day there will be wheelchairs, wagons, strollers and motorized mobility assistance coming through the Market.”
Farmers Market popularity has continued to increase since the COVID-19 pandemic, and as a result, vendors have seen increases in sales and repeat customers. The MBA notes that many vendors use the Market as a primary source of income; most are from the Great Lakes Bay Region.
They say the survey is valuable in that it asks about the concerns associated with accessibility, parking, special needs, variety of produce, and location.
“It is providing a good perspective,” Stamas says.

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Read more articles by Ralph E. Wirtz.

Ralph E. Wirtz is a native Midlander who retired from the Midland Daily News as a managing editor in 2015. He has been freelancing since then in between traveling and volunteering. He has four adult children, all who graduated from Bullock Creek High School as he did. He is an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Navy and a Central Michigan University grad. He can be reached at ralphewirtz@gmail.com.