Indoor farm market returns to Oaklawn, evening hours added

Nov. 15, 2016

  Indoor farm market returns to Oaklawn, will feature once-a-month evening hours

 MARSHALL – Snow might not fly for awhile, but winter hours are back in force at the Marshall Area Farmers Market’s site inside Oaklawn Hospital.

The cool-weather indoor market that was launched last year proved such a success that the year-round market seemed destined to continue, said market manager Lynne Meservey.

That was clear as the season’s first indoor market got under way on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 9. On hand were scores of customers and 17 vendors, most of them familiar to frequent market-goers.

“We learned last year how supportive the Oaklawn staff would be making the process easier for all involved,” Meservey said.

“It makes it so much easier because the Oaklawn staff do the setup for us and takedown for us,” she said. “We don’t have room for all the vendors we have on Green Street [site of the summer market], but the work is simpler – and that means we can run things with fewer volunteers.”

 The winter market’s standard hours will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through April in the hospital’s front entrance lobby at 200 N. Madison St.

However, new this year are the market’s evening hours, to be launched Dec. 7 and scheduled on the first Wednesday of each month throughout the season. On those Wednesdays, the market will be open from 3 to 8 p.m.

“We believe offering the evening hours once a month will open up access to Oaklawn employees who work on later shifts, and some might even be able to take their dinner home with them as a result,” Meservey said.

“It also means our public customers who work during the week will have a better chance to stop by in the late afternoons or evenings,” she said.

“We have vendors coming from as far as Grand Rapids who drive to Marshall each market day, and this may even reduce some of the impact that snowfall might have,” Meservey said. “Roads are more likely to be plowed later in the day, and that will give farmers more of a chance to reach the market.”

 “The winter market has been a natural expansion of something we’ve hoped to accomplish at Oaklawn for quite some time,” said Bill DeSmet, Oaklawn’s executive director of business development and ancillary services.

Oaklawn provides the space free of charge to the market’s organizers, in the large open space adjacent to the hospital’s Ella’s Cafe and Gift Shop. Oaklawn opened its doors to the organization for the first time this past February, and the market ran through early May.

“Long before we got involved in the market earlier this year, we’d looked at some other communities to see how such an idea was organized,” DeSmet said. “We believed we had the right team, especially in view of the fact that the local market has been so successful.

“Our initial indoor market last spring was a great experience for everyone, so we all felt that we would commit to making it happen again,” he said. “It’s just such a terrific partnership, especially because it fits into our mission to provide healthy choices for the community.”

 “The opportunity to have the indoor market for three months earlier this year was beneficial to our planning for this market,” Meservey said. “We learned a lot of lessons behind the scenes when it comes to our procedures for setup and takedown.”

Working with Oaklawn remains positive and support for the market has been enthusiastic, Meservey said.

“Dial-A-Ride also was key in providing transportation to and from the market for many of the public shoppers. All in all, things have gone very smoothly,” Meservey said, adding that Dial-A-Ride offers free trips on Wednesdays to seniors and the disabled, funded by the Marshall Lions Club.

Visitors to the winter market will find many familiar vendors such as The Cheese People, Dough Chicks, Grampa’s Pastys, Java Jones, Jennings Family Farms, Kahoona’s Kitchen, Lavender & Honey, L.T.’s Angry Mustard, Modern Dinosaur and Old MacDonald’s Farms & Cuppycakes.

They’re being joined by such relative newcomers as Portage-based Youz Guys Sausage Co. LLC, which sells hand-crafted pork, beef and chicken sausages, as well as the Sprout Farm Stand, which is associated with Battle Creek-based Sprout Urban Farms, an organization that works to increase the public’s access to fresh produce and healthy foods.

 “We heard there was a need for fresh produce at this market, and we wanted to bless the community with that,” said Manny Sevastopoulos, who manages the Sprout project’s mobile markets.

 “This produce table has items from 30 different farmers from this area, within an 80-mile radius around Battle Creek,” he said. “We know all the farmers and their practices, and we know whether it’s organic or not. We have fruit, winter squash, cauliflower, watermelon radishes, kale chips, Asian pears and free-range eggs that we produce ourselves. We also are always on the lookout for new markets and ways to get in touch with the community.”

Cody Nowakowski of Youz Guys Sausage Co. said he was impressed by the market environment inside Oaklawn’s front lobby.

“We got into this because we heard so many good things about this market,” Nowakowski said, adding that the business he operates with Chis Capalbo of Portage involves visiting other regional markets as well. “Now we’re just trying to get our name and product out there a little more. Everybody’s friendly and everyone talks to each other.”

Meservey said the winter market soon is expected to reach its capacity of 20 vendors.

“Providing that we have the space, we would like to implement the Chef Demo days we have added to the outdoor market, as well as educational information – particularly those that encourage healthy habits for all ages,” she said.

“Oaklawn and the market represent those ideals in our community, so we also will continue supporting non-profit groups when we have openings,” she said. “And we’ll have fun as often as we can!”

The Marshall Area Farmers Market was begun in 2003 as a way for Michigan vendors to find local customers for their fresh, locally grown produce. As it did last year, the summer market is expected to operate Saturdays in the parking lot on the south side of the 100 block of Greet Street near Zion Lutheran Church.