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Successful indoor farm market at Oaklawn paves way for year-round event

April 4, 2016
Successful indoor farm market at Oaklawn paves way for year-round event

MARSHALL – Despite spring’s arrival, “winter” hours still are in force at the Marshall Area Farmers Market’s site inside Oaklawn Hospital.

The first-ever cold-weather indoor market has proven a success, demonstrated by its immediate growth and the expectation that a year-round market will continue in Marshall at least well into 2017, according to its manager, Lynne Meservey.

“We learned it’s easier to do a market inside than outside,” quipped Meservey, adding that cold weather has created its own set of issues, chiefly affecting whether vendors can manage to drive into town.

That doesn’t seem to have been much of a problem, however. Fourteen vendors participated when the indoor market began in February, but no less than 27 were in force on a recent Wednesday – a 50 percent increase in vendor interest since Oaklawn opened its doors to the organization.

“It’s been great,” Meservey said, adding that the indoor market will continue on Wednesdays through early May.

On May 21, the summer market will open on Saturdays at the site it occupied beginning in 2015, in the parking lot on the south side of the 100 block of Greet Street near Zion Lutheran Church – a location that can accommodate nearly four dozen vendors. Winter hours are expected to resume at the end of the summer season, again back at the hospital.

Working with Oaklawn has been positive and support for the idea is high, Meservey said.

“This has really paid off,” Meservey said of the market under Oaklawn’s roof. “I think Oaklawn was quite happy with it, too. The staff there were very helpful.”

The market operates from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays inside the hospital front entrance lobby at 200 N. Madison St. 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.

Whether it’s winter or summer, Ann Acker of Marshall probably will be on hand each week to look over what vendors have on hand.

“During the summer, I try to go every Saturday because there’s such a good variety,” Acker said during her third visit to the Oaklawn market on a recent Wednesday, during which she had bought some fruit turnovers from Kuntry Kitchen Bakery. “And there are flowers and many other things.”

Acker was joined by Eileen Kelleher of Marshall, who despite making her first visit to the indoor market, ended up purchasing a sausage, cheddar and chive delicacy from Bakewell Quiche.

“This is a very good space for this market,” Acker said.

Several first-time vendors joined the array of offerings as the market moved indoors several weeks ago, Meservey said.

Among them were Jeff Voissem of Kalamazoo-based Kahoona’s Kitchen, who makes snacks for people who want to enjoy different varieties of foods but want it prepared with health in mind.

“It’s a nice setup here in the lobby – easy for public access and for worker access, and the vendors have a nice flow of traffic at each stop,” Voissem said.

Voissem, who has worked the farmers markets in Springfield and Jackson, said the winter market at Marshall provided more room for him and others to display their wares.

“This is a good market for me, so I am sticking with it through the winter market season, through April,” Voissem said. He’s committed to opening up at the Kalamazoo farmers market after that.

“I like what I see over here in Marshall,” Voissem said. “I can’t see anything that would improve on it, because you’re getting good flow from the public, and good traffic that walks through here from the working staff. The amount of vendors and variety is spot-on.”

“This is done very, very well, with how it’s set up in the lobby,” said another first-time vendor, Mark Jones of Hickory Corners, who runs Java Jones Hand-Crafted Coffee. “Everyone can be seen well and no one’s hiding. The mix of different vendors is really great.”

The enthusiasm expressed by Voissem and Jones was echoed by Bruce and Pamela MacDonald, who operate Old MacDonald’s Farm on 17-Mile Road north of Marshall.

“Everything has been going a lot better than I expected,” said Bruce MacDonald, a retired Enbridge employee who launched his orchard business with his wife in 1985, adding a bakery later. “The organization has grown, and now there’s a lot more vendors and a lot more business.”

The MacDonalds have been associated with the local market for several years, since the days when it was situated on South Marshall Avenue.

“This is definitely wonderful,” Pamela MacDonald said while surveying the interior of the Oaklawn location. “I wish we had a permanent facility where we could be indoors, especially for me. I sell baked goods, so when it’s rainy or too sunny, it can be difficult. I can’t do the butter crème and some of the frostings.”

Bruce MacDonald said he plans to “sign up immediately” when the winter market continues late this year at Oaklawn, and Meservey said several vendors had expressed enthusiasm about that prospect.

“There’s a lot of convenience, and we love it,” Pamela said.

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. The market ran on Saturdays from May to October in the parking lot in the 100 block of West Green Street beginning last year.