By Walt Gajewski
The Farmington Farmers Market closed out its regular season last Saturday. Awash in blue skies and the memory of 26 consecutive weeks of rain-free market days, we ended the season with the warmth of the sun on our backs and the glow of community in our hearts. I have been working the market for 10 years now, and I find this lack of rain to be quite amazing. No rain! Unreal. Of course, opening a market against the searing winds of uncertainty, forged from the fires of a worldwide pandemic that still rages, is also amazing. Unreal.
It all adds up to a deep sigh. But with that thought come flash cards of emotions as I sit here, emptying out a cache of memories, from when I first contracted the virus back in March to grappling for ways to fortify the market so it could open safely by mid-May, operating as an essential source for locally grown produce.
By the end of October, I was calloused enough to step forward, petitioning City Council to extend the market an extra week because our farmers were still harvesting the good food from fields of abundance. With fair skies in our favor, a strong flank of willing volunteers and committed vendors behind us, we were like a body in motion. Once we got rolling, it was hard to stop, fueled by the momentum provided by people like April Mae Karl of Livonia.
Karl along with her husband, Dr. Jacob Karl, and their two children, has been coming to market every Saturday for much of the past four years. “We’ve been to a lot of other markets and, well, we just fell in love with the small-town vibe that we feel from the market in Farmington,” she said. “Frankly, it’s been a major boost to our mental health. And that’s all above and beyond all the precautions put in place that made me and my family feel safe and at ease!”
Safe and at ease in Karl’s view translates to our season-long message of “We’re here to keep you healthy.” And that makes this the perfect spot to thank all of those who have stepped forward to make Saturday life in a Michigan small town possible during a pandemic.
To our sponsors – Zero tax dollars go to supporting the market. We rely 100% on vendor fees, sponsor support and fundraising. Personally, I found it extremely difficult if not down-right ridiculous to even think of asking local businesses and institutions for funds to operate the market this year. Businesses were struggling! Doors were closed!
But during this time of low light, a wonderful thing happened: Wright Beamer Attorneys of Farmington Hills sent a check. So did Beaumont, and the accountants at Montgomery, Burke, Mackinder, Wiethorn & Dye, along with Fresh Thyme Market, the Farmington Garage, Great Lakes ACE, Waug’s Electric, Farmington Insurance, Essential Family Chiropractic, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Holzer Ford and the Calder Dairy. Please seek out these businesses to help navigate your own lives since they all demonstrate they truly care about community.
To our volunteers – from 6th graders to septuagenarians, they offered up six months of their lives, dedicating hours every Saturday in selflessly assisting vendors and customers to stay safe. Thank you all for putting the market on your shoulders.
To our farmers and vendors all of whom are independent, hard-working, self-reliant individuals – They all came together, willing to handle the harsh rigors of opening the market. In a way they were volunteers in their own right.
To Farmington Public Safety, Farmington Public Works, City Council, the Downtown Development Authority and City Manager’s Office – Thank you for extending a helping hand week in and week out during a time when city offices were closed, operations compromised.
Heavy sigh here. We did it. Along the way we paused to cheer that one million people had enjoyed coming to Farmington since the market opened in 1993. Along the way, all of us contributed to making the Farmington Farmers Market metro Detroit’s best in 2020.
As for myself, Bob Dylan says it best in a song that has stayed with me as I have grown older…
Countless with fire on flaming roads
Using ideas as my maps
We'll meet on edges, soon, said I
Proud 'neath heated browAh but I was so much older thenI’m younger than that now…
Thank you all…