Bittersweet farewell to the Williamston Farmers’ Market

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By Leslie Spector
Williamston Post staff writer

Marlene Epley, Williamston Farmers' Market coordinator

Marlene Epley, Williamston Farmers’ Market coordinator.

As the season for fresh produce and colorful flowers comes to an end, Williamston Farmers’ Market coordinator Marlene Epley, along with its devoted vendors and customers, look back on a successful five months.

In previous years, the farmers’ market was 3-7 p.m. on Thursdays. The market has also been moved around numerous times for construction.

“Having the market on Thursdays always inhibited business,” said Epley. “A lot of vendors were unable to come Thursday afternoons and overall, there wasn’t enough business to sustain the market.”

When Epley was asked to coordinate this year’s market, she immediately suggested changing the day and time.

“I was pleased that the city agreed with my proposal to make some changes,” she said.

This year, the market was 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Sunday in McCormick Park. The market began May 19 and ended on Oct. 13.

At the market’s peak this summer, 22 vendors had booths. In previous years, when the market was on Thursdays, the highest amount of vendors was 10.

“Obviously, business is slower in the spring and fall,” Epley said. “Our peak season is during the summer. We counted 150-200 customers on the Sunday where we had 22 vendors.”

The number of vendors varied each week depending on the type of product and the season, Epley explained. There was a core of 8-10 vendors every week.

“I had a vendor this year who sold asparagus and rhubarb, both of which are harvested in the spring,” Epley said. “I also had a vendor who made homemade peanut brittle. She came during the spring because her product wouldn’t have held up in the heat.”

All the vendors are from Michigan. Most come from Williamston, while others come from Webberville, Howell, Stockbridge and Mason. All products are locally grown and traceable back to the vendor.

At the final day of the farmers’ market, vendors such as Julie Fessler from Fessler Sauces, Jennie Hanus from Double JH Farms and Diane Allarding from Glory Bee Sweet Treats were selling their products. Epley also had a booth (Flower Essence) and was selling sustainably grown flowers and produce such as tomatoes, hot peppers, garlic, basil, dill and honey.

Hanus was selling handmade goats’ milk soap, air fresheners, natural deodorant, lotion bars and hand-knitted items.

“I was born with eczema so I was always using mild soaps and lotions,” Hanus explained. “I ran into a lady a while back who makes her own soap and thought I would try it.”

Jennie Hanus spinning wool.

Jennie Hanus spinning wool.

Fessler was selling an original sauce created by her husband. The sauce is rather tangy with a hint of mustard.

“This is only my second time vending in Williamston,” Fessler said. “I’m usually at the Brighton and Howell markets, but I am trying to branch out. Being in Williamston has been successful for our business.”

Julie Fessler working the Fessler Sauces booth.

Julie Fessler working the Fessler Sauces booth.

Fessler’s sauce can be found at Meijer (only in Michigan), Merindorf, Mert’s and Horrock’s Farm Market in Lansing.

“This was my first time at the farmers’ market this year,” said Williamston resident Glenda Turner. “We live right next to Marlene and we see her go by with her mules every Sunday on their way to the market. I’m thrilled I was able shop around at the market this season, it’s always a pleasure.”

“It’s very bittersweet for us,” said Diane Allarding, who sells homemade banana bread, hummingbird bread and gluten free treats. “I hate to see the market come to an end but we were so successful and had a great couple of months here in Williamston.”

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