It’s mid-May, the time each year when people head outside to their home gardens, put herbs and vegetable plants in the soil and dream of what will be.
If you don’t have room for a garden — or your thumbs are the opposite of green — never fear, outdoor farmers’ markets are back.
Meridian Township Farmers Market will open its outdoor market on May 16, two Saturdays later than usual. Folks in and around Williamston will be able to attend the first Eastern Ingham Farmers Market of the year on May 17 in McCormick Park, just north of downtown Williamston.
The South Lansing Farmers Market is also ready to open on June 4, and the East Lansing Farmers Market will join its ranks on Sunday, June 7. A website for the popular farmers markets at the Capitol, held three times each year, says its first market will be July 23.
Market managers region-wide say their vendors are eager to see their customers, and if the near-300 shoppers at Wednesday’s final indoor Allen Marketplace sale of the winter is any indication, shoppers remain happy to support local growers, coronavirus or no coronavirus.
How shoppers and vendors interact will of course be different, but area market managers said they are ensuring the experience will be a safe one.
Julia Kramer manages the Allen Marketplace, which will move, for one year only, from its home of nearly 20 years to an outdoor space at the corner of Michigan Avenue and North Fairview Street. The hours, 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays, won’t change.
The move is necessary because the 1600 block of Kalamazoo Street, home to the Allen Neighborhood Center, will be a construction zone for much of the summer.
The changes in the market since the onset of the pandemic will continue to be practiced outside, Kramer said.
“We’ve gotten rid of our extra activities and social gathering aspects. We stopped putting out tables for people to sit at, and we canceled all of our live music,” she continued.
That leaves a market that is strictly for shopping, which is not a bad thing.
“It’s an essential place for people to get food in this area, and an essential place for our local vendors to develop customer bases and make sales,” Kramer said.
Customers have gotten the message.
“Even though we had that many people come through, they were filtering through very quickly, grabbing their stuff and chatting with a friend for one minute and then leaving,” Kramer said.
With past summers sometimes bringing upwards of 700 people on a market day, Kramer said she’s not sure what the pandemic will do to attendance.
She does know the space they’ll have is sufficiently big for everyone to stay far enough apart while choosing whatever is in season.
“I’m hopeful that it will go smoothly and it will be safe,” Kramer said
And while this year’s market is limited by necessity to around a dozen vendors, Kramer is proud that three — Highwater Farm, Half Barn Farm and Magnolia Farm — are urban farms growing their wares in the Eastside neighborhood.
The pandemic has disrupted the Meridian Township Farmers Market as well. Opening day is two weeks later than tradition, and instead of a shiny new pavilion, vendors will cross Central Park Drive to the spacious Meridian Mall Parking lot.
Saturday hours are still 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. There will again be a market on Wednesdays after July 4, although it’s unclear as yet what those hours will be.
Haslett resident Tom Cary heads up both the Meridian market and its smaller cousin, the Eastern Ingham Farmers’ Market in Williamston.
The two-week delay has helped Cary and others craft strategies for safe shopping. Social distancing will be a priority, and there’s plenty of room for it.
“Markets typically are a place of central congregation and lingering,” Cary said. “We hope we can still have some aspects of people enjoying themselves — in a very safe and organized way.”
Shoppers will be asked to wear masks, Cary said, and all the vendors will wear face coverings. There may be controls put on how many people are allowed into the market at a time, he added, at minimum making sure there is just one customer per vendor.
Shoppers will also be asked not to bring their own bags – a twist on what we’ve been taught all these years – and to use electronic payment methods whenever possible to minimize contact.
As with everything else these last couple of months, opening day for the market should be a new experience.
“I am sure there will be many things we’ll learn after doing it the first week,” Cary said. “And I’m sure I’ll have a whole new list.”
Meridian Township Farmers Market
Opens May 16
1982 W. Grand River Ave., Okemos
Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Wednesday markets begin after July 4, hours TBD
Eastern Ingham Farmers Market
Opens May 17
123 High St., Williamston
Sundays 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
South Lansing Farmers Market
Opens May 21
800 W. Barnes Ave., Lansing
Thursdays, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
East Lansing Farmers Market
Opens June 7
280 Valley Ct., East Lansing
Sundays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Allen Farmers Market
Opens May 13
2100 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing
Wednesday, 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Capitol Farmers Market
First market takes place July 23
100 N. Capitol Ave., Lansing