‘Tis the season for The Fulton Street Farmers Market

Amy Hinman

If you’re anything like me, summertime means a few very important things: no class, no homework, and farmers markets; three things I’ve been waiting all winter for! And what better place to enjoy not getting up at 7:30 a.m. to go to stats than Grand Rapids, proud home of not one, but two really wonderful markets!

The Fulton Street Farmers Market has been around since 1926. Located at 1147 Fulton St E, Grand Rapid’s first market sells everything from beans to baguettes. The new Downtown Market, at 435 Ionia SW, makes buying fresh, local, delicious food even easier. Both are home to street performers, flower vendors, and fresh, local veggies as far as the eye can see.

As the oldest outdoor market in Grand Rapids, the Fulton Street Farmers Market has survived a lot. Built on the outskirts of town, the patch of land was home to small-scale farmers that were no longer encouraged to hawk their produce in the street.

In the 80’s, the market all but died. The Lunchable Revolution had landed, and busy parents didn’t have time to prepare food the way they had in the past.

Thank goodness times have changed. ‘Eat Local!’ has been a rallying cry for many in Grand Rapids, and the boom in market attendance has reflected the increased interest. The market vendors and patrons now pack into the covered walkway Saturday mornings, cheerfully sidestepping one another, while debating whether to get two tomatoes or three.

But what’s the big deal? Aside from all the history, why is local food something to get excited about? I’m glad you asked.

There is a unique sense of community at the farmers market. Many of the vendors have been there for years, and their livelihood has been the selling of produce. When you buy your cucumbers from the same people, at the same time, every week, you’re a friend, not just a customer.

When I’m at the market, I ask questions about the food I want to buy. Is it organic? How should I prepare it? What pairs well? I personally appreciate the amount of autonomy fresh food gives my fellow shoppers and me—I’d rather have a conversation than read a label any day.

Case in point: today, when I was perusing the stalls (and wishing I had more than a dollar in my wallet), I met a nice gentleman who offered me a bread sample. But not just any bread. This bread was gluten-sugar-soy-dairy free, and was just baked this morning. Which shows a lot of dedication in my book, because it wasn’t even 9 a.m. at the time. That sample, and the conversation that followed, set the tone for the rest of the visit. It was obvious that he cared.

So do I still shop at a grocery store during the summer? Sure, once in awhile. But if you have the opportunity, come find me at the market. I’ll show you the ropes.