Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell says public-private partnerships such as Downtown Market define the city. Photo via youtube.com
This Saturday marks the official opening of Downtown Market’s outdoor farmers market.
More than 80 farms will be on hand selling their produce and products at the market this summer. To be included in the outdoor market vendorsmust grow or produce at least 80 percent of what they plan to sell, and the other 20 percent must be Michigan products.
“The market is a gathering place for the community to find fresh food and support our local farmers and producers,” said Mimi Fritz, Downtown Market CEO and president. “We will draw folks from the neighborhoods around the market, and we will also be a destination place.
“The market is located in what we consider a food desert, due to little to no access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. The Downtown Market will be a dynamic hub for the West Michigan food system, and will offer a place for the community to have access to fresh, healthy food year-round.”
Last night a group of Grand Rapids’ movers and shakers, including the mayor and other elected officials, gathered with Grand Action Committee leaders for a ribbon-cutting event and were given a preview of a few of the products that will be available at the market, as well as a tour of the indoor market space that’s still under construction.
“I’m just really excited to be able to have people come firsthand and see what all this dirt and dust and wood and steel is all about, and get the first view of what this pretty cool place is going to be,” said Brian Harris, DDA chairman. “I think that the market is going to be essential to this end of this community as a destination location, number one, but as far as providing food — fresh, locally grown, healthy food — it fills the gap of what we have here.”
David Frey, Grand Action Committee co-chair, said of the market, “We are thrilled to get the outdoor market open … it launches the market, it makes a statement; we are in business. It’s going to be a terrific asset for the city and its going to be great for tourists and for families from all over West Michigan and people who are on their way through Grand Rapids and want to sample the greatness of this great city.”
Frey said the Downtown Market is unique not just in the state but also across the country, being the only market of its kind to offer a children’s kitchen and a greenhouse.
“We have some very unique characteristics, unmatched by any other market of its kind in the country,” Frey said.
In addition to being a destination place for visitors and residents, the market also is supporting the central and western Michigan farm community and providing an additional avenue for farmers to connect with consumers.
Crane Dance Farm will be one of the outdoor market vendors, and Jill Johnson, partner at Crane Dance, said the new venue would open up food opportunities to a new audience of customers. She also hopes it might spark an interest in farming that will lead to the addition of new farms and farmers to the community.
Johnson pointed out that Michigan is second only to California in the variety of produce that can be produced here.
“We should all be able to eat locally all year,” she said.
“It really underscores first of all the importance of the agricultural community in the state of Michigan and the economy in Michigan,” Frey said. “It’s a very large piece of our economy, and central/west Michigan is no exception. We have some fabulous regional farmers. We have a variety of products that they will bring directly to the market. We are building this market in every way to make sure that we can to make them successful as entrepreneurs.”
The market will be open Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The 24-vendor indoor market is scheduled to open in late summer. Market representatives reported that all of the indoor spaces are almost fully leased, though only a handful of the vendors have been announced.
“Because the market is a fresh food destination, both areas will offer a plethora of products to the community throughout the year,” Fritz said. “The outdoor market will focus specifically on fresh, locally grown and made, in-season products. At the outdoor market you will be able to purchase many items that you will not find inside the market, and you will have additional shopping options.
“For example, the outdoor market will be home to local farmers selling potted herbs, landscaping plants, etc., that are not found inside the market. In addition, on outdoor market days, customers will have more options of the same foods. For example, we may have a kettle corn vendor or coffee roaster outside, offering alternatives for purchasing.”
The outdoor market will accept Bridge Cards (EBT/SNAP), Double Up Food Bucks, WIC and Senior Fresh.
The full list of outdoor market vendors is online.