Terri Gordon: Local markets offer summer abundance

Published 7:35 am Friday, July 12, 2013

‘Tis the season — the summer season, that is — time for flip-flops, beach picnics and farm-fresh produce. To capitalize on the bounty, many towns across the region offer farmers markets. People can shop for a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, flowers and other locally produced foods and accessories.
Set on the bluff, overlooking the lake, St. Joseph’s market is one of the area’s oldest. The location and festive atmosphere make the market popular with vendors and visitors alike.
On a recent Saturday, Buchanan resident Mark Pfleger darted from booth to booth at St. Joseph’s Farmers Market, coffee in hand, snapping up pastries and produce.
“We’ve been surveying the booths, and I think we’re about to pounce,” he said, ordering molasses cookies from a local vendor. He considered granola at another.
“I bought rosemary and basil at Kitty Hill Organic,and picked up some organic lettuce from Granor Farms.”
Pfleger discovered the market only recently — stumbling on it after his first session at a new gym — and is already a regular.
“There’s nothing like completing the morning with a cup of fresh coffee and freshly baked goods,” said Pfleger, as he headed toward yet another vendor to pick out fresh flowers.
Camy Cronin, of Hagar Shores, has attended the St. Joseph Market for many years.
“It’s just wonderful,” she said. “They have all sorts of different foods to try. The vendors are nice and seem to like what they’re doing, and they’re willing to tell you about their stuff — and most of it is local.”
In addition to fresh raspberries, handmade pasta and cookies, Cronin has purchased locally produced raw honey.
“My dad used to raise bees, and I like the flavor better than the kind in the grocery store,” she said. “It’s just so much better.”
Local honeys, maple syrups, as well as handcrafted specialty items — pastas, breads, jams, jellies and more — are standard fare at many local farmers markets. Locally raised eggs, chicken and meat are increasingly becoming available, especially as organic options. Fresh locally grown and organic fruits and vegetables are the real stars of summer though — and the spotlight is always changing. Rhubarb and asparagus are long gone. Strawberries are getting scarce, replaced by cherries and raspberries.
For Cindy Grewett, owner of Kitty Hill Organics in Dowagiac, peaches are right around the corner.
“I start with strawberries and asparagus and go right through to pumpkins,” said Grewett, who is starting her 12th season in St. Joseph. “[I’ll have] peaches in two weeks. All the veggies are getting ready to pop.”
It’s a bit early yet, but Grewett is known for her heirloom tomatoes and her wide variety of potatoes. The “blue” ones draw a lot of interest.
She offers other unique items, too. As they “flush,” she’ll have shiitake mushrooms. They are unpredictable though, so she can’t say when.
Granor Farms of Three Oaks is new to the St. Joseph market. It features organically grown lettuces, greens and vegetables.
“This is our first year at the market, and it’s proving to be very successful,” said the booth’s attendant, Nick Colin. “We’re a little behind because of the crazy rain in April, but we’re starting to get our broccolis, cauliflowers and squashes. So, we’ll soon have those as well as tomatoes.”
The anticipation of what’s coming next is part of the attraction for second-home owner Sandy Contos, who’s been hitting the St. Joseph market for many years. She looks forward to the rest of the season.
“I like fresh produce, and it’s nice to think you’re supporting someone locally,” she said. “I’m looking forward to summer. As it goes on, I’m sure there’ll be more and more.”
Bridgman’s Farmers Market is located downtown, at the railroad tracks, on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. through October.
The Buchanan Farmers Market is held every Saturday from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the Common in downtown Buchanan.
In New Buffalo, where Lakeshore Drive meets the Red Arrow Highway (in the Skip’s Restaurant parking lot), an Open-Air European Farmers Market takes place every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Located near the Main Street Bridge in Riverfront Park, the Niles Bensidoun French Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday morning from 8 to 11 a.m. and every Thursday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. The market runs through September.
The St. Joseph Farmers Market meets every Saturday from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m., and on Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. It goes through mid-October.
The Three Oaks Farmers Market also meets on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through October, and meets at the Corner of Elm Street and Central.