Harbinger of Spring - The Farmer's Market

There is joy in Muddville when the first robins materialize, the first crocus blooms and the first spring offerings appear at the Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market. For those of us who spend the cold months hibernating inside, swaddled in woolens, and finding solace in pots of hot soup, Market days in early spring are the grace for our penance.

Ann Arbor residents have been buying fresh from the farm at the Farmer’s Market for almost 90 years. When it started in 1919 it was situated in front of the courthouse and moved 20 years later to its current location – a former lumber yard. A WPA project built the current roof structures.

In summer there are over 100 vendors on a Saturday morning. Market days on Wednesday and Saturday start before the sun comes up and last until mid-afternoon. 

Although it’s now early April and snow is dusting the ground, we’ve had enough warmish weather that there are tender greens on offer – spinach, baby lettuces, mache – from local organic farms Brine's Farm and Tantré Farm who were planting in their hoophouses when real snow was on the ground. Eating spinach, lightly sautéed with garlic, or the baby lettuce mix with a drizzle of vinaigrette is like getting the little power burst in a video game. 

There is a redevelopment planned for the market that intends to solve some of the current problems with the space. The Market Commission's Master Plan was  approved by City Council in 2006. See the draft they have posted of the revised Master Plan diagram. 

Jessica Black, the Market Manager, responded to an email inquiry with this information about the changes that have already happened and the ones that are still coming (note the possibility of solar energy!): 

"The Market Master Plan is still in the beginning stages as far as implementation is concerned.  In January 2006, City Council approved the market master plan for the farmers market.  Since then the market office, breezeway and market bathrooms have been updated and renovated.  Construction and upgrading on the existing sheds, new pavilion and parking lot will start this fall and continue through the winter.  A resolution to hire Beckett and Raeder as project managers will go to city council this month - I am not sure of the exact date.  Once they are on board, more meetings for city staff, market commission and city council will likely take place.  The city's energy office has applied for a solar energy grant (separate from the master plan) which would provide photovoltaic cells at the market.  This grant will be awarded in May 2007 and must be implemented within 12 months. I am very excited for the upcoming 1-2 years at the market!"

It gave me the goofy grin of the food-obsessed last week when I bought a dozen parti-colored eggs from a lady who raises different breeds of chickens and calls her hens “happy girls.” When I used the pastel colored eggs later to bake a birthday cake, I noticed how thick and firm the shells were and how the little membrane at the larger end was still in place. The yolks were the color of the orange setting sun. 

In summer, there is no finer place to be than at Market in the morning when the sun peeps over the horizon, slanting down on heaps of fat tomatoes, the perfume of spicy basil wafting, and armloads of fiesta colored zinnias lining the walkways.  Is there a better way to eat local, seasonal, and often sustainably grown food than what you find at the Farmer's Market?  The fact that you're supporting local farmers puts your money where your mouth is. 

Copyright 2011 - The Farmer's Marketer