NELDON: Still time to support farmers, artisans

Published 8:02 am Saturday, September 19, 2020

Did you know there are more than 700 types of garlic? Have you ever seen what happens when you sand and polish the inside of a tree? Did you know that, despite signs boasting “Concord grapes” all along the highway, that most in-season locally grown grapes on grocery store shelves are actually Fredonia grapes (which taste almost exactly the same)?

I learned all these things and more last weekend.

As the temperature dropped 10 degrees and the tantalizing wafts of crumpled leaves began hinting that autumn was coming, I was itching for an excuse to get out of the house and enjoy some socially distanced outdoor fun.

In three days, my mom and I traveled to three farmers markets, countless fruit stands and just about every corner of Berrien County.

We found beautiful mums ready to pop, gourds, pumpkins, grapes, peaches, ready-to-bake pies and even apple cider — all grown or made from items grown right here in southwest Michigan.

At the farmers markets in Buchanan, Bridgman and New Buffalo, we met artisans from all over Michiana, and took time to listen to their stories.

We met a woman selling homemade baked goods to raise funds for a child with cancer in Buchanan.

We met makers of flavored popcorn, homemade ice cream, homemade dips and dozens of varieties of jams and salsas.

We saw homemade stuffed animals, bracelets made out of recycled belts, handmade organic soap, bookmarks made out of spoons and all sorts of homemade face coverings.

It was a pleasure to see the pride in farmers’ faces as they educated shoppers about the fruits of their labor, and, although I’m not at all crafty, I had a lot of fun talking with artisans about how they make and market their wares.

These markets featured everything from hobbyists looking to make some extra cash to entrepreneurs taking the leap into running a business. Many times throughout the weekend I heard vendors springing to action to help their competitors when they ran out of change, needed to better strap down their canopies or struggled to help a customer.

At each market, vendors and customers respectfully wore masks and kept their distance even outside in the open air, and hand sanitizer was available at almost every booth.

There is a true community atmosphere at each of these events, and an entrepreneurial spirit that is exciting to support.

Although summer is winding down, there are still a few more weeks to support our local farmers and artisans. Check out:

• Buchanan Farmers’ Market — Saturdays through Oct. 10 in the Buchanan Commons

• Dowagiac Farm and Artisan Market, Saturdays through October, Division and Railroad streets in Dowagiac

• Skip’s European Open-Air Farmers’ Market — Saturdays through Oct. 10 at Skip’s, 16710 Lake Shore Road, New Buffalo

• Bridgman Open Air Market, Sundays through September, 4509 Lake St., Bridgman

• St. Joe Farmers Market, Saturdays through Oct. 10 on the bluff in downtown St. Joseph

As we continue to take precautions while gathering for events, this is a great opportunity to safely get out of the house and support fellow southwest Michigan residents. Who knows what you might find?