Farmers markets in full bloom

Published 12:58 pm Thursday, June 4, 2015

Submitted photo

Submitted photo

MICHIANA — It’s a new kind of agricultural revolution, but it doesn’t stop at produce. Farmers markets have been sprouting around the nation, growing in size and popularity as grocery centers and social spots for local-minded consumers.

Lisa Croteau, one of the organizers of the Niles French Market, began seeing the fruits of the labor at her local market’s May 28 season-opening. With its usual location in downtown Niles staging bridge reconstruction, this year’s market is held right across the St. Joseph River in partnership with Lakeland Hospital.

“[They] are gracious to host us,” Croteau said. “Buying local food supports the local economy…plus there’s nothing better than fresh-picked produce, is there?”

With many convenient market alternatives from smaller grocers to massive box stores, farmers markets have flourished on the notion of community and fresh, farm-to-table offerings. Shoppers don’t need to worry about where their food comes from or what agents were used in its harvesting — the sources are right there behind a vendor stall.

And these markets have grown to become more than that while still supporting the local producers, expanding beyond fruits and vegetables to include anything from jams and meats to jewelryand handcrafts.

Harbor Market in Benton Harbor includes a variety of vendors selling produce, baked goods, crafts and more. Coordinator Rod Lawrence describes it as an outdoor festive market place, bringing community spirit and even live music every Friday.

“It’s an opportunity to help young entrepreneurs and micro businesses get a start,” Lawrence said. “And also find great fun and fellowship.”

As with any business, local farmer and artisan markets experience varying degrees of success. Granger Farmers Market announced the permanent closing of its historic Bittersweet Center location early this year. It has since relocated to an open-air setting on Elm Road, and the enthusiasm is still evident on its Facebook page as they make jokes at occasional weather challenges.

South Bend Farmers Market continues its longstanding tradition on Northside Boulevard since being incorporated in 1924, boasting 96 vendor stalls and its Farmer’s Market Café, where guests can dine on meals made daily from the fresh ingredients that surround it.

While the world expands and draws attention elsewhere, these farmers markets maintain focus on their local communities, offering fresh fare and a lively spirit to remind people of where their roots lie.