The Rapidian

Stacking up: How the new Fulton Street Farmers Market will put GR on the map

[INTERACTIVE MAP] Melissa Harrington explains how the newly proposed $2 million renovation plans for FSFM will position Grand Rapids in the national farmers market scene.
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The Rapidian at FSFM

Last Friday, July 22, The Rapidian staff steered the coffee cart at Fulton Street Farmers Market and asked obliging patrons to pose with the item they were most excited about getting at the market. Click on the pinpoints in the map to see what they said and hear their stories.

Anabelle poses with a brochure. "I got a cow," she says.

Anabelle poses with a brochure. "I got a cow," she says. /Denise Cheng

Farmers market patrons explain which item they are most excited about. View The Rapidian at Fulton Street Farmers Market in a larger map.

The year 1922 brought many things: James Joyce published Ulysses, the early horror film Nosferatu was released, Mohandas Ghandi was imprisoned in Bombay and tried for sedition, and the Fulton Street Farmers Market (1147 E. Fulton) was born. Though not much has changed with the market since the office was built in 1926, where it still stands today, the market has plans to undergo some major changes very soon, and we aren’t just talking a face-lift.

The market has just announced the public phase of its $2 million fundraising project with hopes to completely renovate and improve this long standing piece of Grand Rapids’ history. Although the market has been raising funds for the last year, it is now asking the community for help in capping off the remaining amount.

Melissa Harrington, the market manager, is most excited about addressing the drainage issue in the sloped lot that the market occupies.

“One of the biggest things is the storm water retention plan. It is going to be wonderful because every time we get a big rainstorm the farmers end up standing in big puddles.”

Along with adequate water retention and direction, the new market will feature a covered roof that will eliminate the need for overhead tarps, which are not only inefficient to set up but also can dump water on unlucky patrons. Harrington also noted that it has "been a long time coming that we really need handicap accessible bathrooms," which, along with other handicap accessible features, are on the horizon.

Right now, Harrington said, FSFM just doesn’t stack up to other local and regional markets. “For our size, we’re probably the last one to have a permanent covering or facilities adequate to handle the traffic we do.”

FSFM averages 11,000 people per week, and on Saturdays, traffic can pique beyond 6,000 patrons.

“A lot of open air markets tend to be smaller, max 25 to 30 vendors. Here we have 122 spots and about 60 vendors on a Saturday,” Harrington said. With the expected renovations, FSFM will be on par with other budding, year-round markets such as Ann Arbor’s.

In comparison, both markets have similar history, are of a similar size, and are both city-owned properties. However, FSFM is run by Midtown Neighborhood Association, a neighborhood nonprofit.

"...The city does not have the money to really invest in the infrastructure. So really, it’s a great private-public partnership model for other organizations to look at ... as far as how can municipalities pair up with a nonprofit in order to make investments in an area when the funds are not available.” According to Harrington, the new improvements will put FSFM ahead of most other markets in Michigan because “we will have the capabilities to go year around along with having a covered roof and more plaza area.”

In the winter, there will be several meat vendors, apples in the beginning of winter, root vegetables, and greens grown hydroponically or in greenhouses in late winter.

There are also plans to install a short turnaround at the north end of the market to help with congested traffic flow. Currently, there is an underutilization of parking spots due to the extremely long one-ways, which the addition will ease.

“A lot of big metropolitan cities have one nice market that goes year around," Harrington said. In Michigan, "that will be us."

A detailed list of all the planned renovations and how the public can take part can be found at FSFM's fundraising site, Our Goodness is Growing.

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i've been a victim of those tarps bucking in the wind and getting doused. ha! 

also, to note, as one who attended fsfm all winter, there was actually an amazing array of items available-many more than listed here. looking forward to it again!

I'm glad to hear of the amazing array of items available. Can you think of any off the top of your head to add to the list from last year?

there were cheeses, milk, cream, ice cream (all from mooville), pears, breads, winter squashes, onions, garlic, and it seems like more. i was always pleasantly surprised at how much of my meals could still be local!