At the Saline Farmers Market, people can buy locally produced farm goods and crafts while chatting with friendly growers and fellow shoppers. It is now available Saturday mornings in winter as well as summer and Tuesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in summer.
It began in 2000. Saline mayor Gretchen Driskell attended a workshop on farmers markets by the Michigan Municipal League and came back inspired.
Driskell discussed the idea with Larry Stover, city manager at that time, and together they decided to ask Nancy Crisp if she could organize a market for Saline.
They chose Crisp because they knew of her administrative skills through her tenure with the Chamber of Commerce where she was working at the front desk.
“One thing they didn’t know was how much I love farmers markets, Crisp said, “I’ve been like that for years.”
Crisp accepted the challenge. There was no plan for how to get this done. Apart from for some literature from the workshop, she was on her own.
Crisp began visiting markets in Ann Arbor, Chelsea and Manchester to get ideas and talk with vendors. The first market in Saline was a three-week trial with only a half dozen vendors. It was successful enough to run from May to October the following year.
“One of the things that happened, when I first started I’d still go looking for vendors, and then about the second year or third year they came to me,” Crisp said. “I don’t have to look for vendors anymore.”
Crisp calls it a “growers-only market” meaning that the products need to be grown or created by the seller. No resale is allowed. Products include not only farm produce, but also baked goods, woven goods, specialty foods and even locally roasted coffee.
A winter market started three years ago. For the first year the vendors themselves ran it, then Crisp took charge. Now it is held in Liberty School.
“The winter market is bigger this year than I’ve ever had it, said Crisp. “I’ve never been that far down the hall before.”
One vendor, Edward Dietrich, a.k.a. Farmer Don, of Green Valley Farms in Gregory began growing different products to accommodate the winter market in Saline. The number of vendors has also increased reaching a peak of 39 this Christmas season.
The winter market includes more craft items than in summer, though veggies and baked goods are still prominent. In summer farm products take center stage.
A new feature as of last year is the ability to use Bridge Cards. Shoppers can swipe their bridge card at the Saturday summer market and obtain tokens useable at any of the markets. The Double Up Food Bucks program enables Bridge Card users to buy even more fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Michigan.
The market is always entertaining. For example, Paul Kniffen, a regular at summer and winter markets is happy to talk about the trials and tribulations of chicken farming. At the winter market, Mark Schalk demonstrates sock making using wool from alpacas raised at his farm just south of Saline.
The Farmers Market is fun, healthful and promotes the local economy. The Saturday summer market is at “Parking lot #4” across from Excalibur Barber Shop in downtown Saline. The Tuesday Summer market is in back of the Saline District Library. Winter market is at Liberty School.