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A Q&A with Tom Carey, manager for the Meridian Township Farmers Market

“We bring together a broad variety of vendors with different products that are local both in craftsmanship and production.”

How does the Meridian Township Farmers Market engage with the community?

We create a safe, easy and accessible space for local farmers and entrepreneurs to do business year-round. For customers, we bring together a broad variety of vendors with different products that are local both in craftsmanship and production. We build a space where these folks can meet, share ideas and purchase things from one another, which I think creates a sense of community.

We have between 2,500 and 3,000 people come through the market each week with around 60 vendors. It’s a very dynamic place where a wide variety of the things people want and need can be found.

 

What does the process of choosing vendors look like?

One of the first criteria is if the product is unique, new or desirable. Are they bringing a product we already have a lot of? I’d much rather make a few vendors happy and go home having sold most of their stuff than saying yes to everyone. Trying to find that balance is a hard thing we hone over time. Then we ask: Is it local? How local? Our priority is the Greater Lansing-area and Michigan vendors.

 

Does the market go beyond food?

For a number of years, we’ve had people who sharpen knives and sell soap, yet still called ourselves a food-only market. I wanted to identify some pieces that were food-related and made sense to be included. So, we created an additional category for services or craftsman products related to the serving, cooking or processing of food. Now we have someone who makes wooden bowls and another with cutting boards. We wanted to carve out a niche that contributed to the food community while also providing local artisans a place at the table, as it were.

 

Does the market change seasonally?

From May to October, we limit our offerings to those related strictly to food. This is a tradition of the market, now in its 47th year, to really emphasize the seasonal food production in the area. We carry on with this tradition, and I think it’s valuable so when people come to the market, they do so to support the farmers.

 

What’s on the horizon for the market this summer?

Our Wednesday market is starting July 7, lasting likely through October, which is open to a much wider range of vendors and artisans selling all sorts of wares. We also have an exciting new change this year with a lineup of musical guests set to perform. We’re lining up food trucks for each week and planning fun, family activities. The market will be open 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., with music 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. where folks in the community can come out and enjoy.

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