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[MIDTOWN] Fulton St. Farmers Market enters competition for America's favorite farmers market

This dispatch was added by one of our Nonprofit Neighbors. It does not represent the editorial voice of The Rapidian or Community Media Center.

American Farmland Trust bumper sticker, free at the Fulton Street Farmers Market.

American Farmland Trust bumper sticker, free at the Fulton Street Farmers Market. /Denise Cheng

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The Google map of competing markets keeps track of how many votes have been cast for each market.

The Google map of competing markets keeps track of how many votes have been cast for each market.

Market Manager Melissa Harrington is confident that Fulton Street Farmers Market can take the title of America's Favorite Farmers Market. Often noted for its block's worth of diverse vendors, the market is jam-packed every weekend.

"We also have a dedicated and loyal customer base that should be celebrated," Harrington said. "People are very protective and proud of this market. This contest is a way to show [off] their loyalty."

As an initiative of the American Farmland Trust, the popularity contest is meant to bring issues such as farmland preservation and local food systems to the forefront. 

The competition is divided into four categories: Boutique markets with 15 or less vendors, small markets capped at 30 vendors, medium-sized markets ranging from 31-55 vendors, and large markets with 56 or more vendors.

FSFM is considered a large market with more than 300 daily and seasonal vendors. Daily vendors pay for each day they show up, and seasonal vendors pay a flat fee to reserve stalls from May to December. Vendors run the gamut from crafts and baked goods to greenhouses. Twenty-seven of the 39 seasonal vendors are farms.

FSFM is in the running against farmers markets from Chicago, New York City and Portland, Ore. Last year, a market out of Davis, Calif. took home the prize with just 3,000 votes. The farmers markets with the most votes in each category will win AFT swag for its market-goers as well as $1,500 in market-specific design work and promotional materials.

"What we would win would essentially be half of our advertising budget for the year. That would free up money to do other promotional events or advertising … to enhance sales for the local farmers," Harrington said. FSFM is run by the Midtown Neighborhood Association, and its sole income comes from stall fees.

Harrington put FSFM in the running last year to feel out the competition. She posted two updates to the market's Facebook account, and by the end of the competition, FSFM had placed in the top 20.

This year, Harrington plans to use social media to its fullest extent and set up a computer by the office.

"With having a laptop, we can catch people when they get their tokens for either credit or debit or the Bridge card," Harrington explained.

The market will also be handing out free AFT bumper stickers and will ask market-goers to invite five friends each to vote.

The competition runs till August 31. A Google map on the competition's Website will keep track of how many votes are cast for each market. Voters can only cast one ballot per email (only a confirmation email is sent to those who opt out of AFT communication). There is a text field with each ballot for voters to add why they love their farmers market.

"At the end of the year, they compile all the comments and send it to the farmers markets. It's really neat because you get feedback from the people who voted," Harrington said.

Among the bevy of comments last year:

  • "Huge! And totally supports locally grown farmers and organic! Not to mention artists! Yeah. I have the best memories of going with my grandparents when I was little and now I take my grandson!"
  • "Fulton Street Farmers Market is my family's favorite place to be on a Saturday morning. The market is teeming with people, like us, to purchase the best of everything the local farms have to offer ... We feel so connected to our community milling about with our neighbors searching for the perfect thing to make for dinner. It is what I look forward to every week and is my best memory of my home in Grand Rapids."
  • "Grand Rapids is a good sized city, but the Fulton Street Farmers Market is always like a jovial family gathering. The vendors know one another, joke around and seem to genuinely enjoy their time ... The farmers market give us a slice of what life should be like."


Compiled by Denise Cheng, MNA board member

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Thanks for this great article! 

Holy goodness! I just checked, and since the article was published yesterday evening (about 15 hours ago), FSFM has gone from eight votes to 96! YEAH! FSFM is about to become America's agricultural sweetheart!

...this is the first Rapidian article to be picked up for print! It's on B3 of today's Grand Rapids Press.