Thursday, July 3, 2008

Expansion of the Farmer's Market

Lately I have noticed a change in the small Farmer's Market I visit on Wednesdays. It's growing. Is this due to the demand for locally grown and produced goods? Or is there another, more pressing reason for this change?

More and more Michiganians are looking for work. State officials with the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives noted that our unemployment rate jumped to 8.5 percent in May, hitting its highest monthly mark since October 1992. It's also the highest in the entire nation. The state's overall civilian labor force - those working or looking for jobs - included more than 5 million people last month and that number is expected to grow. The Big Three (commonly how we refer to the three automakers in Detroit) are closing plants, posting record lay offs and offering buy-outs and early retirement packages. There are a lot of us out of work and not a lot of jobs to be found. While the rest of the country is just beginning to feel the pinch of a recession, our state has been crippled for months.

Does this mean out of work former automotive executives might decided to have a lemonade stand at the Farmer's Market? Maybe. Today, for the first time there was a husband and wife team making and selling fresh lemonade and limeade at the market. I love fresh squeezed limeade, so I wandered over. I ended up buying three glasses (Two of the eco 'burban boys were tagging along) at $3 a piece. At first, I balked. Three dollars?? Doesn't that seem like a lot? But, what was wrong with my logic? A mere six months ago, before becoming a lighter consumer, I would have happily plunked down $4.29 for a Starbucks Mocha made by a crabby 17-year old "barrista". I am going to hedge a bet that the barrista wasn't worried about making her mortgage payment either.

$9 later, we were walking back to the van with three icy-cold lemon and limeades made with pure cane syrup and by a real person we chatted with for several minutes. Doesn't that taste good? My kids raved and slurped.

Since last year, when our market was mostly farmers, bakers and nursery folks, we have seen the addition of a horseradish guy, tortilla chip woman, herbal tea lady, bees wax cosmetic person and jam ladies. Today, the newest addition was the lemonade couple. Of course, I don't ask why they are there, but as you wander the market you see it. For every $5 that changes hands you hear, "Thank you. Thank you so much, I appreciate your business." You see all the vendors watching, hoping and waiting for a record day at the market.

Are these people former GM executives? Factory line workers from Ford? Office assistants from Chrysler? Maybe, maybe not. They would never tell and you would never ask. We have a sense of pride here in Detroit, always keeping a stiff upper lip through riots, gas crisis, corrupt mayors and economic free fall. We do what we can to survive, pay our mortgages and put shoes on our kids.

So, who am I not to buy that $3 lemonade from someone who appreciates my business, chats with my boys and thanks us kindly? Of course I am buying, and, as our money changes hands I say, "Thank you, this looks delicious. I hope to see you next week!" We take care of our own here in Detroit, one lemonade at a time.


Heather @ SGF said...

Our market has been growing as well. I'm not sure if it's just summer or really more vendors. Either way, I think it's wonderful!

Robin said...

We've seen not only more vendors, but a substantial increase in customers. It makes the experience more fun for the kids... but we're more careful to arrive early so we don't miss the good stuff!

Joyce said...

Love this post! Detroit will survive on it's entreprenurial spirit, and people generously forking over $9 for lemonade. I'll bet there are quite a few people who will put in a batch of sweet corn to sell next year, or something along those lines.

Bobbi said...

Our Farmers Market in Harrodsburg, KY is also growing! I think it's wonderful; I visit at least once, sometimes twice a week.

Green Bean said...

Okay, this may be lame but your post literally brought tears to my eyes. I think we are seeing the beginnings of the new economy here. More and more people I know are setting out on their own - whether due to necessity or due to principle (they want to work less hours, do something they believe in). But the important thing is that we support those people. Why is it okay to drop $5 at Starbucks and complain over the price of a head of carefully grown broccoli. It's not.

eco 'burban mom said...

heather - I am glad to hear your's is growing too. It's great, but in our area a little sad at the same time,

robin - I hope, for our vendors sake, they are seeing an increase in customers. This week's market was pretty sluggish, the vendors were kinda bummed.

Joyce - I have a feeling you're right. More folks will be thinking of what they bake, grow or make that they can sell to help make ends meet!

bobbi - Keep going to those markets, the vendors really appreciate it!

Green Bean - Aw, shucks I didn't mean to make you tear up! I agree, we are at the tipping point for the creation of a new way of living. I have more than one friend who has lost their home, there are abandoned homes in my neighborhood, I have many friends who have lost jobs and are at risk of bankruptcy. Kudos to those willing to sell lemonade to make ends meet when last week they were a CFO of a major automotive parts supplier. Everyone is doing whatever they have to do, and if my $9 makes a difference and brightened my son's day at the same time? It was money well spent!

Joan said...

It is funny how consumers don't question the price of Starbucks or a combo meal at a fast food restaurant but will complain about the expense of healthier alternatives. Recently my weakness has been the money I spend at our Farmer's Market on Saturday morning especially the baked goods.