Like many farm markets throughout Michigan, last year ended up being a wash for South Haven’s Farm Market. With COVID-19 health restrictions in place, and few vendors to be found, the market absorbed a $9,000 loss.
But, city officials are hoping for a fresh start this year by making several changes to the market’s operations.
“Last year with the COVID crisis, we had to take a step back from the farm market,” said Sue Brock, director of the city’s Downtown Development Authority.
Not only did the market suffer a financial loss in 2020, there was also growing concerns about the foot traffic ruining the grass in Dyckman Park. Additionally, a growing number of downtown merchants were voicing concerns about the large number of vendors selling non-food products that put them in direct competition with downtown retailers.
To address the issues, city council members created a committee last fall consisting of farm market vendors, downtown merchants, the farm market manager, city council members and city staff.
“Our goal was to come up with recommendations to make the farm market robust, safe and one that complements the downtown, not one that competes,” Brock said.
When the market opens this month for the 2021 season it will be configured a little differently.
In the past, the market has taken place at the Huron Street Pavilion and Dyckman Park, which adjoins the pavilion. However, from now on, the park will no longer be used.
Instead, 10 spaces will be added for non-farm vendors just south of the pavilion, along with four spaces for food vendors and one non-profit organization.
To adjust to the reduction in non-food vendor spaces – in 2019, there were 37 non-food vendors – the farm market committee has come up with another option.
The farm market staff will set aside the first Thursday evening in June, July and August to open the market from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. to vendors who want to sell non-food items. While the evening market is open, live music will be offered. To add to the festive air, downtown merchants have agreed to keep their stores open until at least 7 p.m. on those evenings.
“We wanted to do something unique and encourage people to shop downtown,” Brock said.
During summer festivals that sometimes occur during farm market hours, the market will move to neighboring School Street, between Huron and Michigan streets. While the market is in operation the street will be closed to vehicular traffic.
“This will keep the market visible to visitors and community when the pavilion and lot are being used during festival events, typically Festival of Cars in June and National Blueberry Festival in August,” Brock said.
One thing that isn’t changing at the farm market is its hours of operation on Wednesdays and Saturdays. As in the past, the market will operate from 8 a.m.-2 p.m., on Saturdays starting May 15 to Oct. 15, and from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturdays, from June 1 through the end of August.