By Taylor Miller
The Williamston Post Staff Writer
From organic produce to Asian cuisine, the Williamston Farmer’s Market has spent the last 8 years providing a variety of fruits, vegetables and other products to its community.
Michael Gradis of the Community Development Authority explains that although he has only been in charge of the market for a year, he see’s it as a complete success.
“It is not about turning profit for the city”, Gradis said. “It’s about allowing access to fresh produce and other fresh locally grown organic materials so people have options other then going to a grocery store, convenience store or gas station to buy food.”
The Williamston Development Authority’s goal is to improve the community. They achieve this by capturing tax dollars to fund different developments such as infrastructure improvements, façade improvements and marketing for the downtown area such as the market.
With hopes of marketing the downtown area, the group decided to start the Farmer’s Market in May of 2003.
In 2008, Christine Miller was handpicked by the city to become the Market Manager and according to Gradis, Miller was selected for her experience and expertise in the business.
“This is my third year as the market manager in Williamston”, said Miller. “I am also the manager of the Meridian Township market, where I steal lots of ideas from.”
Miller uses her networking ability to draw attention to the budding Farmer’s Market. She also said that she encourages vendors from other market’s to join Williamston’s.
The market is funded by city grants, applications and a stall fee, which is paid to the city in order to vend on its property for a certain amount of hours.
“The stall fee the market collects from its vendors is the only money the city see’s from the operation,” said Gradis, “and that amount is not very much”.
The stall fee is a requirement for vendors, as well as the submission of an application for their individual business.
“It was very easy to apply,” explains Katie Whittaker of Katharo Fields Bakery, “I just applied online and got in touch with Christine Miller.”
Other vendors may not agree with the ease of the market applications.
“There are lot’s of rules to be in this market,” said Clarence Humphrey of CJ&T Produce. Because of his wide array of products, it wasn’t as easy for him to get ready for the market, as it may have been for other vendors with only one product.
The new Michigan Cottage Food Law allows vendors to make products in their homes. Previously, those products had to be made in government-certified kitchens.
Elizabeth Tennes of The Country Mill said that she had no problem abiding by the rules and regulations of the Farmer’s Market.
“The only issue we had is that this market was slower moving than some of the other ones we have attended.”
Despite the smaller number of customers compared to other markets, many vendors had good things to say about the Williamson Farmer’s market.
“I love it, its great. The people who come here are unbelievable. It’s awesome,” said Kolache Kitchen representative, Jenni Alfaro.
Katie Whittaker of Katharo Fields said, “We will definitely be back next year.”