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Farmers Market a success

Photo courtesy of Calumet Main Street Boersma Family Roots had eggs as well as fresh produce available for customers shopping at the Farmers Market in Calumet. Vendors wore masks and gloves to help protect against possible COVID-19 spread.

CALUMET — The first Farmers Market of 2020, which took place on Fifth Street on June 20, was more successful than anticipated, according to Main Street Calumet Executive Director, Leah Polzien.

“We had a great day,” Polzien said. “Our farmers were not sure what to expect, and they sold out in about 20 minutes. Our biggest farmer told us they did twice what they usually do at a first market, and it would have been three times normal if they had had more produce.”

Polzien said the vendor had to return to the farm and pick more, which again, sold out in 15 minutes.

“Another farmer, Jake TenHarmsel, of North Harvest CSA, mentioned that they sold 40 heads of lettuce, something they’ve never done before,” said Polzien.

North Harvest is one example of the farmers who bring their produce to the Farmers Market.

Jake TenHarmsel, was born and raised in Holland, Michigan. He graduated from Western Michigan University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science from a double major in both Environmental Science and Communications. His wife, Ashley Tenharmsel, is a 2004 graduate of Calumet High School and received her Bachelor of Science from Western Michigan University in Earth Science. They back to Calumet in 2013 and started North Harvest CSA, a small vegetable farm. Along with working on the farm Ashley serves as the Main Street Calumet Board of Directors Secretary. North Harvest CSA produces fruit and vegetables that are free from chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

“The use of credit/debit cards was particularly popular at the first market as well,” said Polzien.

The Market offered tokens this year for customers wishing to use their SNAP benefits (Bridge Card), credit or debit cards at the market. Customers were able to visit the Market Table and purchase tokens valued at $1 each, using their credit/debit card or Bridge Card. All vendors are able to accept these tokens as cash in the case of credit/debit card sales, or for approved items for SNAP benefits. While the market has been a participating vendor for Bridge Card sales since 2017, this is the first year it began using a token system.

“We are aware that there are an increased number of families using Bridge Cards and Pandemic EBT cards this year,” said Polzien, “and switching to a token system will make it simpler, and more discreet, for families to use their benefits at our market and it also decreases the work load on vendors.” The transition to the token program was made possible by a grant from the Portage Health Foundation.

“We have also had a good deal of interest from local artisans,” said Polzien, “and we will be incorporating more of them on a scheduled basis, as we only have limited space and a commitment to keeping the market focused on food sales.”

For the first weekend, she said, the Farmers Market had six vendors present, and this past Saturday, June 27, the number had increased to eight, including an additional farmer, and a photographer.

In order to maintain the focus on food, however, the market has a 1to 1 ratio of food producers and craft vendors, Polzien said.

“The market invites artisans to join food producers,” she said. Producers include North Harvest CSA, Boersma Family Roots, Circle Back Farms and Teach to Taste at Hansson Farms at market this year.

“We hope that Skinny Pete’s will be able to join us in another week,” she said of the Lake Linden-based bagel producer. “They were too busy thus far this year, as they are releasing a new product line, cheesecake!”

The market also changed its location to a new site in the 300 block of Fifth Street, just north of the former Thurner’s Bakery.

“Fortunately, in summer of 2019, the Village of Calumet (DDA) Downtown Development Authority developed a green space at this location,” Polzien said, “so the shift will be from one pretty spot to another.” Completion of an infrastructure project, completed in early June requires the move to avoid ruining freshly planted grass.

Another change was incorporated at the market this year related to health and wellness. To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and comply with State law, vendors will be wearing masks, and in addition to masks, market volunteers will be wearing gloves when handing money or tokens. The market will have a hand wash station and sanitizer available at multiple locations and high touch surfaces will be sanitized regularly. The Market requests that anyone with symptoms to stay home and when attending please respect social distancing guidelines.

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