The Rapidian

Fulton Street Farmers Market continues legacy as community gathering space

The event "Soup @ Fulton Street Farmers Market," coming up on March 21 during regular Market winter hours, is just one of many ways that community is built at our largest and oldest farmers market.
Matt Overdevest with soup

Matt Overdevest with soup /Courtesy of Dianne Carroll Burdick

Underwriting support from:
Produce at the market

Produce at the market /Courtesy of Dianne Carroll Burdick

The Fulton Street Farmers Market (FSFM) is one of our many treasured historical community gathering spaces in the area, bringing together lovers of good food and supporters of local farmers together year round.

One event that is sure to bring out the community is coming up in just a few weeks. Scheduled for Saturday, March 21, Soup @ Fulton Street Farmers Market is a community fest celebrating winter’s locally grown goodness while giving market customers a chance to linger among friends and farmers. The first community event of its kind, with many more to come, Soup @ Fulton Street Farmers Market will run during the time the Market is open, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Attendees will be able to try many soups from restaurants that purchase produce from Fulton Street or support the Market in other ways. 

Attendees will receive one compostable bowl with a spoon for $8 to try all of the soups you would like. For kids 10 and under, the cost is $5. Friends of FSFM are $5 and the event is free with Friends of FSFM 2015 renewal or new membership. Bread and other snacks will be available as well. This will be a no-waste event thanks to a partner, Organicycle.

As a way to celebrate the Michigan winter, the Soup @ Fulton Street Farmers Market also highlights the delicious foods available at the Market year-round. Determined and unbelievably upbeat, a dozen Fulton Street Farmers Market vendors continue outside in the snowy tundra while six vendors move into the warm building for the winter market every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Most markets in Michigan are two or three-season operations with tarps and tables dismantled around Halloween, certainly before Thanksgiving. The hearty souls - who grow, catch, pluck, brew and bake the homegrown food and drink that we devour – show up each and every Saturday, through Michigan’s wintry mess.

The Fulton Street Farmers Market is the oldest and largest market in Grand Rapids. When it was established in 1922, there were three other markets in operation: a large wholesale market located on Market Street by the river and railroad tracks, a smaller market on Cottage Grove Avenue on the southeast side of town, and one on the west side of town by the river on Leonard Street.

Originally known as the “East Side Market,” the site where the Fulton Street Farmers Market currently sits was set aside by the city to ease traffic congestion caused by farmers selling produce block by block from their vehicles or wagons. In 1926, an office structure was built, where it remains to this day and is currently used as office space for the Midtown Neighborhood Association. The building enjoyed a brief stint as a diner from 1953 to 1955. Just two years ago, the Market went through a capital campaign to update the infrastructure, including a permanent outdoor market shed as well as a building to house offices and vendors. 

Throughout its history, the Market has weathered ups and downs in popularity, vendor participation and support. Many of the vendors have been there for generations, one even dating back to 1931. Still, one thing remains constant: the loyal customer and community support. For many, the Market brings back memories of shopping as a child with parents or grandparents. Today, the Market is creating new memories for a new generation. 

With many more community events in the minds of the staff and the board of directors, Fulton Street Farmers Market continues its tradition of being a public place of commerce, gathering spaces and just plain good eating.

Disclosure: The author is on the board of the Fulton Street Farmers Market.

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