Produce, baked goods and artisans make Ann Arbor Farmers Market a draw all winter
Snow, ice, and wind don't stop the vendors or the customers from showing up every Saturday at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, no matter what time of year. In fact, more vendors bring more shoppers, and more shoppers bring more vendors.
"The number of vendors for this time of year has gone up significantly," said Sarah DeWitt, manager of the Ann Arbor Farmers Market. "It used to be five to seven, and now we have 20 vendors, and diverse products are being sold. Foot traffic is relative to the number of vendors."
There are artisans, farmers and bakers among the vendors. Among the fresh produce that could be found at the market today was a variety of greens including pea shoots, collards and kale; daikon radishes; turnips; carrots; potatoes and more. Locally raised poultry and meat was also available.
Coffee is a robust seller year-round, according to Mike Broman and Brian Barch, who run the RoosRoast Coffee stand.
"When it's bitterly cold or there's a big snow storm, business isn't as good, but we have a lot of reliable regulars who are here every week," said Barch.
Paul Turke is one of those people. He comes from Whitmore Lake every Saturday to enjoy a cup of his favorite coffee.
"Every week, Roos offers a high quality different single roast," said Turke. "They give me good advice on what coffees are coming, and they're very friendly. I wouldn't come to the market in winter if not for their coffee."
The big draw for Tom Chase on this chilly day was a package of Grandma's chocolate chip cookies.
"These are homemade, chewy cookies that remind me of when I was a kid," said Chase.
Grandma is Donna Puehler from Delta, Ohio, who sells cakes, pies, cookies, breads and eggs at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market year-round.
"People don't mind the cold, but they don't come out in the rain," said Puehler. "Today I sold 80 dozen eggs before 10 a.m., and I always sell out of my molasses cookies."
Once a month through the winter months, the community-supported agriculture organization Locavorious hands out shares to members, 270 of them. There are 18 different kinds of frozen fruits and vegetables distributed to members from December through March. Locavorious also sells individual items to market customers.
"I buy a lot of produce at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market during the summer months, which I package and flash freeze," said Locavoirous' owner, Rena Basch. "I want to eat locally year-round, and I want to offer that to other people."
She says that berries and peaches are among customers' favorite items.
"I love the sweet corn," said Locavorious member Kendra Pyle. "It's great to have access to local Michigan produce in the winter."
Fans of the now-closed Cafe Japon restaurant and bakery also patronize the farmers market during the winter months.
"I come here to get the most wonderful square loaves of bread that I can't get anywhere else," said Betsy Stover of Ann Arbor, whose other winter market favorites are pea shoots, baby kale, eggs, and RoosRoast Coffee.
"There are a lot of regular customers who count on my breads being here every week and my croissants," said Miyoko Honma, former owner of Cafe Japon.
For the Goetz family, selling through the winter is a profitable business move.
"We do almost as well at this market in the winter as we do at other markets in the summer," said Stephen Goetz, whose parents, Jonathan and Karlene Goetz own the business.
"We've been at this market year round for 10 years and we have many loyal, steady customers," said Jonathan Goetz, who said that salad greens are a big seller this time of year.
"I like the fresh produce," said Paul Gumton from Saline, one of Goetz's regular customers. "I like coming to the market this time of year because it's fun to get out, and I like the variety here."
DeWitt says that many people enjoy the opportunity to get outside during the long months of being cooped up indoors.
"This is a great community space for people to get out of their houses in the middle of winter, and it reflects the fact that we can get food growing or stored year round in Michigan."
Aside from appealing to her numerous customers, Puehler, a.k.a. "Grandma," has another motive for keeping her stand open every Saturday during winter.
"I have 22 grandkids that I'm helping to put through college," she said.
The Ann Arbor Farmers Market, on Detroit Street in the Kerrytown district, is open 8 a.m.-3 p.m. every Saturday during the winter months. Starting in May, the market is open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. both Wednesdays and Saturdays.