On a cool Saturday morning, stands full of fresh produce, artisan breads, hand-crafted jewelry and scented candles line the sidewalk in Kerrytown. Customers cling onto their reusable grocery bags overflowing with goods as they catch up with vendors. Kids balance on their tippy toes as they reach for the biggest pumpkin. For 102 years, the historic Ann Arbor Farmers Market has served as a staple for Ann Arbor community members and local farmers.
Every Wednesday and Saturday morning, 120 vendors travel from different parts of Michigan and Ohio to set up their stands and prepare for another busy day at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. As the day goes on, vendors replenish their depleted stocks from their trucks loaded with goods. From seasonal vegetables to apple cider donuts to warm falafel wraps, there is no lack of variety at the market. For some vendors, this has been a part of their routine for the past eighty years. The unique relationship between local farmers and the Ann Arbor community has persisted for decades, through rain, shine and even a global pandemic. While every vendor’s timeline at the market is different, one thing holds true for all of them: the importance of shopping local and supporting small businesses.
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market has provided opportunities for hundreds of Michiganders and Ohioans. At the market, there may just be one person managing a stand. However, behind that person, there is an entire network of people working together to get their goods on the table and in the hands of eager customers.
Every vendor has their own personal experience at the market. Here are the stories of just a few dedicated regulars at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.
Jeb Booge, owner of VogueBooge Candles, has manned his stand every week since 2018.
Beginning in 2016, Booge started making biodegradable soy-based candles. According to Booge, soy candles allow for a more controlled scent. Customers are encouraged to bring back the vintage glass jars after burning the candles to trade them in for a new candle at a cheaper price.
Booge’s candles are no ordinary candles.
“There’s no petrochemical product in them that you don’t want to breath in. As an artisan, I like to be able to really control the scent. With a paraffin candle, you have to really cover that petrochemical smell from paraffin.”
Right next door to VogueBooge is Raterman, a German bakery in Ann Arbor. Baker Jillian Stichler has been at the market for just under a year. The bakery sells a wide variety of sourdough breads and other snacks.
“My boss is very German, so everything is sort of inspired by that. We sell only sourdough, other than our snack bars, which we make for gluten free options for people. They’re pretty nice breakfasts.”
Every Friday, Stichler works at the bakery to prepare the twists and bag all of the breads. Bright and early Saturday morning, she helps set up the stand for another full day. There was no lack of excitement at Raterman. Customer after customer, everyone wanted to get their hands on a fresh twist.
If you’re looking for a festive plant to liven up your home, you will find plenty of options at the farmers market.
Tina Koski has been a resident vendor at the market for 62 years. Every Wednesday and Saturday, she sets out her wide variety of herbs, seedlings, produce and plants. Whether it’s a tiny succulent or a three-foot tall tropical plant, Koski’s stand adds a natural touch to the market.
“In the springtime, we do flowers, bedding, plant herbs. During the summertime vegetables, and then starting today (Nov. 6), we started our (holiday plant arrangements).”
Koski adds that she enjoys the farmers market and its people. Her family also sets up shop at the Royal Oak Farmers Market.
Many shoppers find themselves working up an appetite while at the market. Fear not, Ferial Rewoldt’s Mediterranean food stand serves up hot falafel sandwiches, Turkish grape leaves, baklava and more.
“My store here is Mediterranean food, from spinach pie that’s Italian to herb pizza over there that’s very popular from Turkey down to Egypt. We have Turkish grape leaves, the classic hummus and falafel sandwiches which are popular with students.”
Rewoldt has worked at the market for five years and has cherished every moment of it. She’s valued all of the interactions she’s made with customers and friends she’s made with other vendors.
While many vendors have been at the market for several years, few have lasted as long as Kapnick Orchards. A family-owned business, Kapnick Orchards is the second oldest vendor at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, selling fruits and vegetables to residents and students for eighty years.
The stand is mainly a fruit stand but carries all kinds of vegetables, from asparagus to green beans to snap peas. They also have a full bakery and cider mill where they produce breads, donuts, cookies and of course, fresh cider.
“Sweet cherries, plums, apples, peaches, pears, tart cherries. If you name it, as far as fruit goes in the state of Michigan, we’re gonna try to grow and sell it,” says Jason Sutherland, one of Kapnick Orchards’ employees. “We sell a lot of baked goods as well here. You’ve got the healthy fruits and then maybe the not so healthy options, but you gotta eat, you gotta live.”
To many vendors, the farmers market is more than just an outlet for selling goods. It’s an essential community that impacts hundreds of people and families.
“The farmers market is important to us because you’re not only supporting local people; that outreach goes far beyond just the people you meet here at the market,” Sutherland comments. “All of us have families and children, and it touches extended parts of the community as well. The farmers market is vital to sustaining our society in general.”
With every apple or candle bought at the farmers market, a greater contribution is made. Each purchase continues to sustain these small businesses and the families they support.
So next time you’re short on produce or just bored on a Saturday morning, head downtown to explore the Ann Arbor Farmers Market.
Managing Photo Editor Allison Engkvist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.