It’s 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and Fulton Street Farmers Market is just waking up.
Vendors arrive, one by one, setting out produce, food products and wares. Though the market doesn’t officially open until 8 a.m., shoppers start to arrive at 7, strolling by and offering greetings as they go.
Before you know it, the market is alive in full force. Musicians are playing, and concessions and food trucks send out delectable scents that lure like the Pied Piper.
Most stalls are occupied, and the market becomes jammed with couples, groups of friends, parents with strollers and multigenerational families out for what is for many a Saturday ritual.
I love Fulton Street Farmers Market, where I started as a vendor around 2009 and attended for several summers, making mozzarella cheese in a rented kitchen to sell there on Saturdays. Eventually, I moved away and did other farmers markets that were closer to home. They also were wonderful — all of them are — with that spirit of enthusiasm and openness to trying new things and desire to support farmers and food producers.
But last year, I was able to return to Fulton Street, and it felt so good to be back.
There was Juliana, who has been selling her Hungarian pastries at the market for 30 years.
The Visser Farms display was as artful as ever — a treat for the eyes and senses with its robust selection of fruits and vegetables, packed to the brim.
Depending on the time of year, you’ll find booth after booth of glistening asparagus, ruby-red strawberries and heirloom tomatoes that are better than candy, as well as shrubs, herbs and fresh cheeses.
A new discovery was Grampa’s Pastys — in a variety of flavors and, oh, so good. It was a joy to work next to Mikayla from Stillwind Farms for several weeks. A first-generation farmer, it was her first season at the market and her enthusiasm for the fresh, sustainable produce she was finally able to share with the public was inspiring.
Yes, it’s tiring for vendors, getting up that early — some earlier than others to harvest veggies and fruit, lugging it all to the market, unpacking, waiting on customers and then packing up again to head back home with, you hope, a much lighter load.
But it’s the best thing there is, too, knowing that you’re feeding people who really, really appreciate that you’re there and what you’ve brought to sell.
Fulton Street Farmers Market runs from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from May through October. Fulton Street Artisans Market is open from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays through the end of September. This year, the market is celebrating its 100th anniversary. More information is at fultonstreetmarket.org.
This story can be found in the May/June 2022 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine. To get more stories like this delivered to your mailbox, subscribe here.