The Auburn Farmers Market is hoping for a growth spurt

The Auburn Farmers Market hopes to grow from a handful of vendors into a regional destination.

Robin Devereaux-Nelson was hired as the market manager in January. Since then, she’s been campaigning to attract growers, artists, crafters, food trucks, non-profit organizations, and more to set up tables under the pavilion inside the Auburn City Park at the corner of US-10 and Nine Mile Road.

The COVID-19 crisis may pose some challenges for the market, but Devereaux-Nelson still hopes to open June 2.

“There may be a few extra health and safety regulations handed down by the state,” Devereaux-Nelson said, but she has heard from several vendors who remain committed to this summer’s market. “People still need to eat, and farmers need to farm, and it’s important for people to get outdoors.”

Devereaux-Nelson promises that people visiting the market this summer will find new vendors and new events. “In the past there haven’t been a ton of vendors, so there weren’t a lot of folks, either,” she said.

Her goal is to make the market into a destination that people will travel to visit. “I really want to involve the community more so there’s really a sense of ownership with everybody for the market and what a great resource it is.”

The new manager is inviting growers, artists, crafters, food trucks, non-profit organizations, and more to join the Auburn Farmers Market this summer.

Location should help. The Auburn Farmers Market is visible from US-10 and located just about 15 minutes by highway from Bay City, Midland, and Saginaw, making it a convenient stop for just about anyone in the region.

She’s also inviting new vendors and planning special events throughout the summer. The market also is able to accept Project Fresh coupons through WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), and Project Senior Market Fresh coupons, offered by the USDA through the Michigan State University Extension office.

Devereuax-Nelson also is looking for sponsors for a program she’s calling Market Munchkins that will give coupons worth $1 to $3 to kids between 4 and 14 years old. The coupons are good for fresh fruit or vegetables at the market. The idea is to teach kids about healthy choices and buying locally-grown food.

“We’re going to have other things for kids to do down there while their parents are shopping,” she said, including coloring tables and photo opportunities. In the Angel Wings photo opportunity, kids dress up like angels and have their photo taken.

On June 16, Devereaux-Nelson said the township is partnering with the Bay County Library System to kick off to the summer reading program. A touch-a-truck event, visits from a dental bus, and other activities are planned for the kick-off celebration.

“This year we’re also going to have certain days designated as ‘bring-a-friend’ days. On bring-a-friend day you come and see me and you both get coupons to win a gift basket of products from our market.” She said bring-a-friend day starts on opening day and repeats every third Tuesday.

Devereaux-Nelson also invited local non-profit organizations to participate in the market.

June is National Safety Month, so she expects car seat safety experts, police, emergency medical services, the Bay Area Women’s Center, and other local non-profits to offer information at the market.

Devereaux-Nelson said the only requirement to participate is the non-profit advertise on social media that they will be at the market.

“If they’re a non-profit. they do have to bring their own table and chair, but they can have space and a donation bucket there, and talk to people about the great things they’re doing in the community.”

The first day of the market promises plenty of activities.

Devereaux-Nelson is planning activities for the kids including a “tater-toss” and coloring tables.

“We’re also celebrating world environment week that day, so we’re doing a can collection for the market. We’ll also be collecting gently used clean T-shirts to recycle into shopping bags.” Devereaux-Nelson said those old concert T-shirts that don’t fit anymore can be given new life.

Devereaux-Nelson said there still are open spaces for vendors at the market. During the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Stay Home Executive Order, she is directing potential vendors to the Auburn Farmers Market website. Vendors also can call Devereaux-Nelson at (989) 662-6761.

The calendar of events is online.

The market will be open on Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout the summer from 3:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Devereaux-Nelson said she hopes the evening hours encourage people stop on their way home from work.

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