By Kristin Rose
Special to The Review
The Hamtramck Farmer’s Market pitched tents and produce on Monday in Pope Park, with enthusiastic vendors, volunteers and marketeers attending the market’s opening day.
The market is now in its second year and has seen a few changes. This year the market will run every Monday, from 4 to7 p.m., and the market has also been approved to accept EBT Cards. This is an incentive for food stamp recipients to purchase homegrown healthy fare, and support local growers while doing so.
“During the market’s first year of operation, customers asked if they could use food stamps. We listened, and in our second year, we are now accepting EBT payments. We also plan to accept credit and debit in the near future,” said Alex Lumelsky, a co-organizer of the farmer’s market.
This year the market will also offer a larger variety of options. In addition to natural, organic produce there will be vegetable plants, honey, and baked goods, among other delicious offerings. Cooking demonstrations will also be introduced later in the season. As more crops ripen, there will be a larger variety of produce as well.
Typically, markets offering local produce evolve as the season develops. In May, with few crops producing, there won’t be the selection that mid-summer offers. As July and August near, expect to find a plethora of produce. There will be tomatoes in spades and squash and zucchini will appear in bushels overnight. Thus, if the market has slim pickings one week, stop by the next or following week — you’re bound to see tables overflowing with seasonal bounty.
If you’re concerned about the origins and farming techniques of what you eat you can rest assured, as all produce sold at the Hamtramck Farmer’s Market will be grown in Hamtramck or Detroit using non-toxic growing methods, and all gardens must pass the soil testing standards as required by the state.
The non-profit Hamtramck Farmer’s Market was established by volunteers, with tax-exempt status pending. Although the market does not receive funding from the cash-strapped city, municipal officials heartily approve of the market as a way to offer locally grown produce to residents, simultaneously envisioning the market as a natural meeting place along the busy shopping district of Jos. Campau.
A town square centered around fresh, nutritious, locally produced goodness — what could be more natural?
Statewide organizations, like the Michigan Farmer’s Market Association, and local entities such as Eastern Market, have been instrumental in providing advice and guidance during these fledgling years of the market.
Local farmers’ markets are meeting the demands of consumers who are looking to purchase locally grown food, without the addition of unwanted pesticides. Springing up like weeds, local markets are often the freshest option on the block.
According to a report on farmers’ markets by the Federal Reserve Bank, in the two-year span between 2009 and 2011 Michigan farmers’ markets experienced the highest growth in the nation. Nowhere has the clamor for fresh food been greater than in Wayne County, which has the highest concentration of farmers’ markets. The numbers are in: Urban agriculture is making a positive impact on our region.
So how can you become involved in this community-strengthening, all-natural growth effort? The answer is simple: consider volunteering, or even become a vendor yourself. In an effort to attract more vendors, the market is offering free booths this season.
This incentive is an attempt to appeal to local family growers and community gardens as an outlet to make a little money — and sometimes a lot — on their gardening efforts.
Andy Thompson of the Goodson Street Community Garden has been gardening for only two years. During his first year he broke even, covering the costs of a lot leased from the Michigan Land Bank. With any luck –and a lot of rain — he expects to make a small profit from his garden this summer.
Another vendor you’re likely to see at the Hamtramck Farmer’s Market is family-owned Rising Pheasant Farms. A husband and wife duo raise heirloom vegetables and sprouts on five lots just south of Hamtramck. Their micro-greens pack a super dense punch of protein and have developed a devoted group of followers who swear by the nutritional value of sprouts.
Volunteers are also needed to help grow the market to its full potential. No experience is necessary — just a desire to help. Skills like promotions, marketing, social media, bookkeeping, community liaison and vendor outreach are especially welcome.
Interested vendors and volunteers can contact the farmers market via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the market manager at (248) 303-4899. You can also message the market on Facebook if that’s your preferred method of communication.
For information about growing on one of the almost 200 city owned lots, contact the Hamtramck Community and Economic Development Department at (313) 874-7700. This adopt-a-lot program helps the city by reducing the manpower needed to mow the lots and gives residents a chance to till more soil than their yard may allow. Just remember, the lots are on loan and aren’t yours to keep.