Dowagiac Farm, Artisan Market begins season

DOWAGIAC — As warmer weather has swept its way through southwest Michigan, Dowagiac has brought back an annual event to provide residents with fresh produce and handmade goods.

Last week, Dowagiac’s Farm and Artisan Market opened for the season, bringing vendors from across the Michiana region. The market will be hosted from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays. It will run until the second Saturday in October.

Saturday, most things were as usual for the annual market. The sun shined over the green patch of grass at the corner of Division and Railroad Street, while vendors lined up under white and blue tents to sell their produce, baked goods and crafts. However, unlike a typical summer, vendors and customers alike wore cloth masks over their faces and maintained a careful distance from each other. Both were precautions taken due to recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For consumers, the market will set up a hand sanitizer station and will provide signage to guide their social distancing,” said Vickie Phillipson, program director for the Dowagiac Downtown Development Authority. “By virtue of overhead canopies, vendors will also be able to adhere to social distancing between their booths. The step-by-step precautionary measures can be easily met to ensure the safety of others.”

Despite having to comply with more rigorous standards due to COVID-19, Saturday’s vendors said they were happy the market was being hosted, and they were able to get out and sell their goods.

Alice Clark, of Dowagiac’s Creekside Greenhouse, said despite the pandemic, she said a steady number of customers at the market.

“It’s OK working [through the pandemic],” she said, surrounded by green plants and pink flowers. “You just have to stay safe. No matter what, we have to stay safe and respect each other.”

Beth Johnston and Kim Dheostino returned to Farm Market for their second year, selling baked goods, masks and eggs on Saturday. They said they decided to return because they enjoyed the customers and the atmosphere.

“We’ve checked other farm markets, and here there are just the friendliest people,” Johnston said. “It’s a friendly family atmosphere.”

Unlike others at the Farm and Artisan Market, Saturday was not only Benton Harbor resident Kathleen Klackle’s first time at Dowagiac’s market, but her first time selling at any market. She sold gourds she had decorated and turned into birdhouses and trinket boxes. Each gourd was unique — some were made to look like alligators, while others resembled turtles or giraffes.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Klackle said she was happy to be able to share crafts with the public.

“For me, this is learning,” she said. “I think I will be coming back.”