The Sara Hardy Farmers Market is a pillar of Traverse City’s Downtown Development Authority. It is open Wednesday and Saturday mornings from the beginning of May through the end of October with 100+ vendors each year.
Since 2011, SEEDS has been contracted to serve as the Market’s manager. Each year we make a point to integrate youth and members of our Conservation Corps as market assistants. In this way we share our love of small-scale agriculture and showcase the economic flow from farm to market to table.
But you must be curious about what goes on behind the scenes of such a large operation! For starters, the SEEDS team arrives at the Sara Hardy Farmers Market at a brisk 5:30 am, before (nearly) all the farmers begin to set up their stands.
Market Manager Elizabeth Dunham tells us more:
What is something most people don’t know about the Sara Hardy Farmers Market?
A big part of our job at the market is handling six different food currencies accepted at our market. We distribute SNAP dollars and Double Up Food Bucks to our EBT customers. We also manage reimbursements to farmers for: Project Fresh, Senior Project Fresh, Prescriptions for Health, and National Cherry Festival Market Dollars. These programs make fresh produce more accessible to our community, and also provide revenue to our farmers. Last year these programs brought in nearly $50,000 in direct value to the market vendors.
What does it mean that the market is a ‘growers only’ market?
Our vendors grow all of their own products, and the vendors who are creating products, such as soap or baked goods, source as much of their product locally as possible. This focus differentiates our Farmers Market from other markets.
Are there volunteer opportunities?
Yes! We collect a lot of data each market to monitor the impacts the Market has on the downtown, our customers, and on local agriculture, sharing this with others across the state. We average more than 1,800 visitors per market! Volunteering at the Market is a lot of fun! It’s a great opportunity to meet local farmers and stay in touch with what crops are in season.
What’s the hardest part about managing the market?
Definitely enforcing the ‘no pet’ rule. All of us love dogs, but they’re not allowed in the market for health and safety reasons.
What is the best part of the Sara Hardy Farmers Market?
Hands-down interacting with the farmers. We are so lucky to have such committed, hard-working individuals growing fresh, delicious produce and bringing it into town rain or shine. Watching the seasons change through ripe produce is pretty exciting! From asparagus and radishes to berries and peaches to tomatoes and corn and finally apples and squash, the market makes me feel closer to my local food system.
What is that little house you work out of?
That’s the old “bird house” building from when there was a zoo here. Now it’s where we store all the signs and keep hot coffee going for our farmers especially on cold mornings.