Grand Valley farmer's market grows
Wednesdays on Grand Valley State University’s Allendale Campus see a lot of activity, as 12 to 15 vendors set up to sell everything from garden-grown foods to homemade energy bars as part of the Grand Valley Farmer’s Market.
“We started out with six to eight regular season vendors and are now up to 12,” said Kay Hart, who manages the market and works in Human Resources. “Our customer base has risen from 100 per market to over 225 per market.”
Though the market is in its eighth year, this is the first year that it has been held in Parking Lot H—a transition that has turned out to be profitable.
“With our move to Parking Lot H this summer, due to construction on campus, we have noticed more community members visiting the market,” said Susan Sloop, work life consultant of GVSU’s HR. “Parking in Lot H is more convenient and easier to access from the market.”
The market started in 2005, with a pilot event for one day in July. Due to its great success, it was decided that the market should be offered weekly through the summer. As the demand grew, the market then became available through September two to three years ago.
The short selling season doesn’t provide market organizers too long of a break, though. The process of organizing the market takes longer than the market, itself. Hart begins advertising for new vendors and musicians as early as January and then plans a kick-off luncheon with the vendors in April. She also orders market bags, vases and brochures, which she hand delivers in May. Once the actual market starts, setup on Wednesdays begins around 7:30 a.m., hours before the first customer arrives.
The process is entirely worth it for Hart though.
“The market is important for a number of reasons,” she said. “First, supporting the local farmers and community, support for campus sustainability, healthier eating and healthier employees, and just having the resources at the market to show people that healthy eating and living isn’t a sacrifice, but a way of living.”
Beyond convenient parking and locally produced goods, the market also provides theme days as a fun way to attract more customers.
Though not all the details are established, July 10 will have a “Kid’s Day” theme where President Thomas J. Haas’s wife, Marcia, will be reading to the children in attendance between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. There will also be games, music and prizes.
“This is for the community as well as all of our GVSU family members,” Sloop said. “The children from the GVSU Children’s Assessment Center will also be attending. Our goal is to encourage children to think about eating healthy and want to go to the farmers markets that are offered throughout the area.”
In addition to theme days, the market also offers live music, and chefs from Campus Dining will frequently make an appearance and prepare samples for the customers featuring ingredients from the vendors. These “Food Demos” have extended to the chefs offering healthy lunches for $6 from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m.
The market is held every Wednesday from 10 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., and it is searching for new vendors to help it grow. For more information, visit www.gvsu.edu/farmersmarket.