Local farmers find support at Fulton Street Farmer’s Market

GRAND RAPIDS CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich — The food and agriculture industry contributes $104.7 billion annually to Michigan’s economy, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

However, amid COVID-19 restrictions, farmers are working to find news ways they can sell their good and keep the profits coming in.

For West Michigan growers, Fulton Street Farmer’s Market in Grand Rapids has been a safe area to sell their products.

“I can’t say enough about the management of this market,” Jill Johnson, co-owner of  Crane Dance Farm said. “They have been slammed with changing rules, and they have kept the vendors and the farmers up to date, and they’ve done a really good job to make sure our customers are safe.”

Fulton Street Farmer’s Market is an outdoor location, where vendors can lay out their products for sale. While the market has been around for decades, it underwent modifications over the last few months to ensure safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Customers are asked to stay 6-feet apart, cannot touch the products and the vendors, wearing masks and gloves, will serve you and sanitize their areas.

Johnson said she is thankful Fulton Street’s market is still open, after another market she also relies on closed. However, she and her co-owner are adapting to online orders, amid the stay-at-home mandate.

“We started with I would say 5% of our business being pre-order online…we’re probably 50% online at this point,” she said.

John Platte, owner of Platte Family Farm, said Fulton Street is the only farmer’s market he routinely sells at and depends on.

“This is mostly where I get my income is dealing with the customers,” Platte said.

Dozens of shoppers came out to support the local vendors on Saturday, something Platte said he really appreciates.

“They’re your customers for a while, but after a while they’re your friends. You ask them about their kids. They ask me about my kids, so it’s more than just customers,” he said.

While many retailers are still able to sell their products at local farmer’s markets, multiple vendors at Fulton Street told 13 ON YOUR SIDE, it’s plant growers who are struggling with the state restrictions.

“We already have it all seeded and already have all the money invested in it, so we might take hit with that,” said Bradley Smith, co-owner of Full Hollow Farm.

However, Smith said his business is doing well and is still selling their fruit and vegetable produce.

“The market this time of year is a little slow, but it’s really picked up since all the craziness. I think people are really interested in getting stuff locally, knowing how many people have interacted with the food,” he said.

While some aspects of the industry are still up in the air amid changing COVID-19 guidelines, farmers said they are thankful for the community support they’ve received so far.

“It’s why we have a strong agricultural system right around here in Grand Rapids is because of this market, and the customers that keep it going so it’s a really good thing,” Johnson said.

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