2017-10-26 / Life in Leelanau

Market Adjustment

Farmers market season wraps up this weekend — but what’s next?
By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff


NOEL WEEKS of La Casa Verde Produce is one of five Leelanau Farmers Market Association board members. Also pictured are Weeks’s parents, Margaret and Dave. 
Photo: Robin LeePhotography NOEL WEEKS of La Casa Verde Produce is one of five Leelanau Farmers Market Association board members. Also pictured are Weeks’s parents, Margaret and Dave. Photo: Robin LeePhotography Another year of Leelanau Farmers Markets will hit the books Saturday as the 2017 season comes to a close at 1 p.m. in Suttons Bay.

“They did very, very well this year,” said Kim Norton, Leelanau Farmers Market coordinator. “All the markets were up this year in sales. We had wonderful cool weather, too, and didn’t have a lot of rainouts.”

Just how well those markets did is yet to be determined, Norton said. Anonymously submitted sales tickets from each market in Leelanau — Empire, Glen Arbor, Leland, Northport and Suttons Bay — will be added up in the next week or so.

Anecdotally speaking, demand for farmers markets appears to be high across the county, but interest from vendors may be slipping at the less-trafficked markets.


STUDENTS GATHER around Jane Rapin, an MSU program instructor, at a recent indoor farmers market held inside a Suttons Bay Public Schools gymnasium. Photo: Rob Sirrine STUDENTS GATHER around Jane Rapin, an MSU program instructor, at a recent indoor farmers market held inside a Suttons Bay Public Schools gymnasium. Photo: Rob Sirrine Rob Sirrine, a community food systems senior educator with MSU Extension and a Leelanau Farmers Market Association (LFMA) board member, said some vegetable growers have been so successful that they’ve started wholesaling.

Some vendors have attended only the busier markets in Glen Arbor, Northport and Suttons Bay as a result.

“It’s difficult to attend all the markets,” Sirrine said. “We know there’s interest in all the villages, but it’s difficult to sustain all of those markets when you don’t have enough keystone vegetable producers.”

So what’s next?

The number of Leelanau markets already slipped from seven to five in 2017 with the removal of the Cedar and Lake Leelanau farmers markets.

“This year, there wasn’t enough vendor interest to legitimize having those markets,” said Noel Weeks, another board member and a La Casa Verde Produce vendor. “We thought we’d need at least 10 vendors to have a good farmers market.”

From a vendor’s perspective, it’s consistent sales vs variable sales.

Some see Cherry Capital Foods, Oryana in Traverse City or a Traverse City farmers market as a better option than a less-trafficked farmers market in Leelanau — especially since traffic is so weather dependent.

“It’s also difficult for a grower to attend all five of the markets. Some are harvesting every day,” Sirrine said. “Long story short is that our main goal with LFMA is to provide fresh food to the members of the county and beyond, and so once you get markets that don’t get the diversity of products they’re looking for, it’s kind of going against our mission. It makes the market too difficult to sustain.

“We’re actively looking for board members who are interested in helping. It’s an all-volunteer board, and it’s a lot of time and effort they put into the market.”

The landscape of Leelanau Farmers Markets will be under review next Thursday during the fall wrap-up meeting inside the Community Room at the Leelanau County Government Center in Suttons Bay Township at 5:45 p.m.

Customers and vendors are welcome to attend and weigh in on future days, times and locations of county markets — or sign up to support the cause.

“I think it’s fair to say we’re looking for two community members or so to help out,” Weeks said. “The board has five farmers on it, and we don’t have much time to help with organization.”

The 2018 lineup may be in question for now, but the future of farmers markets in Leelanau appears to be strong.

An effort spearheaded by MSU Extension, Taste the Local Difference and the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District has brought or will bring indoor farmers markets to Leland Public School, Glen Lake Community Schools, Northport Public School and Suttons Bay Public Schools.

“That’s a really awesome event,” Sirrine said. “It’s an opportunity to educate kids about healthy eating.”

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