2012-09-20 / Life in Leelanau

Farm markets have been busy

By Patti Brandt of the Enterprise staff


LINDA HEPLER-BEATY, left, fields some questions from Kathy Wheeler, of Lake Leenanau, about the certified naturally grown vegetables she sells at the Leelanau Farmers Market held every Saturday through Oct. 27 in Suttons Bay. LINDA HEPLER-BEATY, left, fields some questions from Kathy Wheeler, of Lake Leenanau, about the certified naturally grown vegetables she sells at the Leelanau Farmers Market held every Saturday through Oct. 27 in Suttons Bay. Farmers markets around the county had a successful season in spite of some weird weather that stacked odds against them this year.

“They went fantastic,” said David McDonald, coordinator of the Leelanau Farmers Markets. “It was a really good year for us. Overall the farmers did very well.”

A lack of cherries and a lack of rain, which resulted in a shortage of sweet corn, didn’t help. Neither did the fact that vegetables came in ahead of time because of an early spring warm up, said McDonald, who is also the market master for three of the markets.

Still, the markets proved widely popular.

All but one of Leelanau County’s six markets have closed up shop, with the Suttons Bay market remaining open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. through October. Other markets are located in Empire and Glen Arbor in the south of the county; Lake Leelanau and Leland in the middle; and Northport at its upper tip. Vendors peddled everything from asparagus to honey.


SARAH JOHNSON, of Lake Leelanau, looks over the vegetables she’s buying to use in her homemade salsa. SARAH JOHNSON, of Lake Leelanau, looks over the vegetables she’s buying to use in her homemade salsa. As market master, the Lake Leelanau resident makes sure all vendors have paid their fees, assigns spots for them, answers questions from customers and in general makes sure everything runs smoothly. The market association, which has been around for about 11 years, schedules markets at different areas on different days, to provide ample access to farmers markets. Markets in Leelanau County were held throughout the summer on all but Mondays and Wednesdays.

“What we’re trying to do is give people a choice,” he said.

It’s a strategy that seems to be working. Markets are growing in both numbers of vendors and numbers of customers, McDonald said. This year there was an average of 20 to 30 vendors at the Suttons Bay market, which continues on Saturdays until Oct.27.

Cindy Landers is master for Glen Arbor farmers market, which was open on Tuesdays. On Aug. 7, primary elec- tion day, more than 1,000 customers stopped by to shop — a record, Landers said. And on July 3 she counted more than 800 customers.

“The calendar really helped us out this year,” she said.

The market, held in a shady spot behind the town hall, attracted as many as 40 vendors, she said. And the shade encouraged people to stay awhile and visit, she added, making the market a kind of weekly social event.

This year the market, which usually ends on Labor Day, stayed open an extra two weeks. On those two Tuesdays the market drew more than 300 customers both days, which tells Landers that local people as well as tourists frequent market.

People like the short path taken by food from a field to a farmers market, and know where the food was grown.

“It’s the combination of locally grown produce, homemade baked goods and locally made crafts like jewelry and lamps,” Landers said. “People really enjoy the mix of goods for sale there.”

The Cottage Food Law, which went into effect in July 2010, is having an impact, McDonald said. The law allows people to produce in their homes and sell at farmers markets and roadside stands non-hazardous foods that do not require time or temperature control for safety. The products — things such as breads, cookies, cupcakes and pies — can’t be sold to retail stores, restaurants or other food distributors.

“It give people an opportunity to bake in their homes and make a few bucks and not have to go through the licensing law,” McDonald said.

Markets — and local families — were also helped by the Double Up Food Bucks program, which is meant to promote healthier eating in families that receive Bridge card benefits under Michigan’s food stamp program. Funded by a grant from the Fair Food Network, a national organization that works to increase access to healthy food, the Double Up program matches up to $20 in food stamp dollars, with the stipulation that the Double Up money can only be spent on fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Bridge card, which is like a debit card, is accepted at markets in Suttons Bay and Lake Leelanau. McDonald said he’d like to see card use expanded to the county’s other markets. This year, including the Double Up funds, more than $2,200 of food stamp money was spent in the county, compared to last year when $326 was spent.

Return to top