By Laina Stebbins
Bath-DeWitt Connection Reporter
DEWITT — The Downtown DeWitt Farmers Market is a one-stop shop for fresh produce, locally-sourced meat and eggs, an assortment of home goods, and a hefty dose of community engagement.
“Last year, we had a pretty tremendous showing with both vendors and attendance,” said Linda Kahler, Market Manager and DDA Coordinator. As for this year, Kahler said attendees “can expect higher foot traffic and more of a variety of vendors … which will allow our shoppers to have a more diverse shopping experience.”
The growing attendance rates of Downtown DeWitt’s Farmers Market are not unique to DeWitt, as farmers markets nationwide are experiencing a rise in popularity among consumers. Official surveys from the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirm this trend.
According to the 2014 Farmers Market Manager Survey, results from nearly 1,400 surveyed farmers markets across the country show that “farmers markets continue to grow and serve as popular community gathering places.” This survey concluded that these markets are “thriving and expanding.”
The trends identified in the survey include: increased rates of customer traffic; expansion of markets to add more vendors and products; access to nutritional assistance as vendor payment; an increase in the provision of nutritional education for buyers; level of community engagement; and the presence of USDA-certified organic vendors.
As stated by Michigan State University Extension, farmers markets provide a crucial link between agriculture and and consumers. In doing so, these markets “shorten the supply chain and increase access to fresh, local food,” while serving as “important spaces within communities for small business development, tourism, healthy food access and community gathering.”
Now entering into its 11th season, DeWitt’s open-air marketplace is slated to open on Tuesday, June 7, and will operate rain or shine every Tuesday through mid-October. Based on the continuous growth of attendance over the past decade, the annual event is expected to attract a large number of shoppers to DeWitt’s downtown area.
Shoppers can also look forward to live weekly music at the farmers market this year.
According to the 2016 Market Rules, the Downtown DeWitt Farmers Market “strongly encourages that vendors have at least 75% of their products grown from the vendor’s/farmer’s own Michigan garden/farm.”
An extensive (though not all-inclusive) list featuring many of the Michigan-produced goods that can be expected at this year’s farmers market can be found here.
Downtown DeWitt’s local foods marketplace not only makes healthy eating easier for participating buyers, but also serves the purpose of gathering residents together with a collective goal: purchasing wholesome food from local merchants.
In a farmers market setup, buyers can directly ask the farmers or vendors about their growing practices and any other questions they may have about the product they wish to purchase. Personal interaction like this, between those who grow the food and those who buy it also allows connections to be made within the community.
In turn, the relationship between DeWitt and its inhabitants is strengthened. This fostering of a sense of community within the city results in a huge impact that the establishment of a farmers market — and more generally, the practice of buying local — can bring to a region.
This direct, personal connection between buyers and sellers in DeWitt also serves as a beneficial method of keeping money circulating in the local economy, which in turn boosts the city’s revenue. In a small community like DeWitt, this is especially important.
“I think the community as a whole is ready to embrace local farmers, local agriculture, and local economies versus imported produce and other goods,” said Kahler.
With the seemingly-endless benefits it brings to the city and its residents, it is clear that DeWitt’s annual marketplace will continue to prove itself invaluable for years to come.
“It’s really become something quite special,” said Kahler.