We recently interviewed Sarah DeWitt, Market Manager for the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. Here is what we learned:
How long have you been working with the Farmer’s Market? What is your role?
I will celebrate one year of serving as the Ann Arbor Farmers Market manager in May. My job is wonderfully varied. On market days I facilitate the stall assignment process for our vendors, in addition to processing token transactions in the office (for our customers who forget to bring cash or who use a Bridge Card) and answering customer questions and pointing them to specific vendors. On non-market days I work on a wide variety of projects. I contribute to the market’s blog; I serve as a member of the AAPS Farm to School Collaborative; I handle the bulk of the administrative work that comes with operating our large farmers market; and I’m the woman-behind-the-scenes for our Facebook and Twitter posts!
What is your favorite part of working with the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market?
One market morning, bright and early, a customer came into the office. In the course of our conversation he got so excited that threw his hands up in the air (in the same way you would if you had just crossed the finish line and won the race) and shouted, “YES! I love fruits and vegetables!” That kind of local food passion from our customers and vendors is my favorite part of this job.
What sets the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market apart from other Farmer’s Markets in the area?
A couple of things. First, this market is OLD. It has been part of this community since 1919. We are so fortunate in Ann Arbor to have a plethora of farmers market at various times, on various days, in various parts of the city. While some of the markets have been around for a while, others are just in their first or second year of operation. We’re about to celebrate the Ann Arbor Farmers Market’s 94th birthday. That is a pretty unique event among markets here.
The second piece is our producers-only status. We require that all of our vendors be the sole creators/growers/producers of their items for sale at market. Many markets do not have this particular requirement. It is our way of ensuring that customers are truly purchasing direct from the producer and supporting our local economy.
How many vendors do you have on a typical market day? What types of goods are they offering?
The number of vendors at market varies quite a bit throughout the year. In the coldest winter months we are proud to still host upwards of 30 vendors each Saturday. During the peak seasons (flowers in May and June, harvest crops in September and October) we see more than 100 vendors come to market on any given day. Our Wednesday Evening Market hosts a smaller group, about 25 vendors, each week June-October. In total our markets host about 180 vendors throughout the year.
Our vendors offer an amazing variety of goods. You can truly check off everything on your grocery list at the farmers market! Of course our most prized items are fresh fruits and veggies. We are also proud to have businesses that offer beautiful breads, cheeses, meats, eggs, pasta, salsa, honey, hand-carved wood products like cutting boards and serving spoons, chocolate, pastry items, raw food bars, granola, prepared foods, photography, birdhouses, jewelry, rugs, handbags, flowers (cut and potted), seedlings, bushes, fish – you name it, it’s here!
How does the traffic flow change with the weather and seasons, especially now that we’re getting into a new produce season?
We are so lucky to have an incredibly supportive, committed community that shops at the market rain or shine, snow or heat. We see lighter traffic through the winter months (you truly show how much you love local food when you are buying carrots outside in 20 degree weather!). We see upwards of 5,000 visitors on Saturdays during peak seasons.
We are definitely coming upon a new cycle of produce at the market right now. Greens abound and glorious radishes are making their way into the vendor stalls. And yet we are able to provide our community with produce year round, so as I see it, we are always in produce season. I bought rainbow chard throughout the winter months thanks to hoops and greenhouses. Our farmers brought potatoes and onions from December through March. We are always excited to get back into the full swing of spring and fall harvest times, which means more shoppers and more farmers represented at market. But don’t forget – produce season is all year long!
Upcoming Market Hours & Events
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market expanded days/hours return in May. Join us both Wednesdays and Saturdays 7am-3pm May-December for the freshest produce and local vendors.
Wednesday Evening Market returns for the 2013 season! Join us Wednesdays June-October 4-8pm for live music, the beer garden, and local food businesses. Each week will bring new events, including a monthly market book club, a theater performance, a Family Fun night, and more! Check out the website for more information: www.a2gov.org/market and click on Wednesday Evening Market.