Posted by: Kath Usitalo | September 14, 2011

Bouquets To Manistique Farmers Market

Sample tomatoes before buying at the Manistique Farmers Market

After stopping at the Manistique Farmers Market in the Upper Peninsula last week I mentioned to my friend Minnie what a fun experience it was.

I always enjoy buying fresh, locally grown food and chatting with the folks who grow it, which is usually possible only at the smaller markets. The crowds at Saturday’s Eastern Market in Detroit make it almost impossible to do anything more than have a quick exchange of cash for crop.

It’s not the farmer’s fault—there’s little time for chit chat when there are 30,000 shoppers shuffling past your table (and the truck behind it) groaning with produce you have to unload. That’s one reason I like Tuesday Market Day in Detroit; there’s still a nice selection of goods but fewer shoppers and a more relaxed atmosphere.

Compare that to the Manistique Farmers Market, 4-6 p.m. Wednesdays outside the Little Bear West Arena, where about a dozen vendors are behind tables set up in a big square. Shoppers enter the open area and browse as the farmers and food producers (honey, bread, meat stix) banter back and forth—there’s a lot of laughter and good-natured ribbing all around.

Mine was a quick stop and I just picked up a few things: 3 cucumbers, a red onion and 2 yellow onions, and a few tomatoes, but at every table the farmers were ready, willing and seemingly downright proud to talk about their goods.

The onion man added another yellow to my bag, and the tomato guy said, “Here, I want you to try these,” and added 3 freebie samples of other varieties of his blemish-free fruit. And both growers did it with smiles, happy to share their bounty.

Soon after telling Minnie how joyful these folks were she happened to read that the Manistique Farmers Market had just been recognized by Rodale Press as one of America’s Top 20 Farmer’s Markets for 2011.

It ranks among the top 5 Boutique Markets (15 or fewer vendors) in the nation, based on public voting. Overall 90,000 votes were cast to decide on 20 markets in four categories. See the list and details here.

Coincidentally, TJ and I savored the last of those tomatoes on a picnic lunch at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore which, in a similar poll with much higher visibility, was recently named the Most Beautiful Place in America. Millions of votes were cast in a Good Morning America TV program competition.

Though not as high profile the Manistique Farmers Market recognition is pretty exciting for the folks involved, especially since this is its first full season. Maybe that’s why everyone was so happy the day of my visit; they were celebrating their honor.

I hope to be in the U.P. to check out the market again before it closes on September 28. The tomato man also grows beets and the way he described their deliciousness, they’d be worth the return trip.

Visitor Info Clicks:

Manistique

Upper Peninsula

Pure Michigan

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Something Fishy in Manistique

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Responses

  1. Hi Kath – Wow, what a great write-up about your visit to our wonderful little market! We are pretty proud of the work we’ve done to develop this market and provide access to fresh, locally grown and produced foods. Wednesday is the best day of the week in Manistique! Hope you can come see us again … be sure to ask to speak to the Market Master (Kerry, that’s me), as I’d love to meet you.

    Regarding the America’s Favorite Farmers’ Market Contest – we thought we did pretty well – 6th in the Nation among all size markets. 🙂


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