The Insider’s Guide to Michigan Farmers Markets

How to Shop Outdoors
Old aerial film photograph of a red barnhouse on a Michigan farm.

It’s harder and harder to find whole foods in the snack packaged bonanzas they’re calling grocery stores, let alone among the hordes of TikTok-driven consumers frenzied over viral concoctions. Good luck procuring something fresh from your neighborhood farm. 

Now if you’ve been to Michigan, you know we have a lot of farms. Over nine million acres, actually. Most Michiganders are either living on a farm, have lived on a farm, live next to a farm, can smell a farm nearby, or at the very least have had to slow down for a tractor. The fact is that three quarters of the state looks like a 2000 Dell desktop.

As summer begins, farmers markets start to pop up like crocuses. And after spending summers beekeeping on my family’s farm, I now run my own stall at some of West Michigan’s best local markets and seasonal craft shows. Having been on both sides of the booth, it’s clear to see which side fuels the other. And it might not be the one you think. 

Like most of these vendors, I have a wealth of hobbies and passions. I’ve worked on a Hollywood movie set. There’s something to be said of the electricity in the air when doing something you love. Farmers markets are no different. Something in the exhibition of that dear hard work is as gratifying for the everyday stroller as it is for the vendors. 

Produce and flowers make up the “meat and potatoes” of most markets. Each booth tells a story, and most Michigan vendors will take the time to give it to you. The landscape of traders operates less on competition than kinship. Though some entrepreneurs feel compelled to compete with trends, asking their son or daughter to post Reels of their stands, many rightfully stick to what they’ve been doing for decades. Brass tacks being you earn what you learn. 

You will see many ambitious new booths entering markets this year. More Michiganders are sharing their bounties and crafts, as the demand for financial independence rises as fast as the price of the latest fake milk. Heck, I started selling candles during the hottest months of the year! Sharing what I’ve learned and love of course, but hopefully that love is enough to garnish some ROI. Between Michigan’s menopausal weather and mothers swatting their kids away from my free matches, business can be rough. 

Still, while not every dedicated vendor can rely on markets alone to finance their ambitions, I haven’t met one yet who isn’t happy to be there. It doesn’t feel hopeless like a line of actors waiting for an audition. Everyone finds their sweet spot at some point. 

For most vendors, from May through September—in nearly 300 farmers markets across Michigan—the juicy fruition of hard work finally shines. Take last weekend in downtown Grand Rapids, sunny and warm with a light breeze just strong enough to remind me that I hadn’t shaved the hair on my right knee. As I walk into the covering of the century-old Fulton Street Market, I can see the beautiful stretch of bustling booths and fellow strollers. Each one wearing the same weightless smile of a good day. 

You will see many ambitious new booths entering markets this year. More Michiganders are sharing their bounties and crafts, as the demand for financial independence rises as fast as the price of the latest fake milk.

Large crowd at Fulton Street Market in Grand Rapids.
Photo by Devinn Dakohta

Every seasonal and regional delight is represented here by the very people who make them, and it can be a lot. Don’t let it discourage you. Even without a list or plan, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. Especially when everyone there will help steer you right. By the end of my Saturday stroll, I was holding fresh sourdough, local maple syrup, and a hand drawn map to a new local hook-up for beeswax bars. After looking (and smelling) the long rows of fresh produce, honeys and jams, yooper pasties and pies, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone in Michigan would shop indoors during these summer months.

I am a touch biased. Coming from a long line of farmers, dating back to when they first used dynamite to clear the fields, many of these roots have been carefully cultivated and preserved by my cowboy of a grandfather, who has been working that same soil since the 1950s. 

Even in his older age, Gramps is still an active farmer in his own ways. Usually cutting his morning corn in his father’s old ‘52 tractor, he often updates his farming community with a satirical “Amish News” series on Facebook. He’s garnished a very real following, obviously not with any actual Amish folk, though the Mennonites next door get a real kick.

Screenshot from fake Amish News Facebook page. Text reads: “Terry Owens Sep 25, 2018. 8
Breaking news from Amish Farm News Radio! Homecoming is Thursday! This years game will be held at the Old Order High School at 2:23 pm. The New Order High School will host the post game dance and celebration. We will be serving ice cold buttermilk and sugar cookies! There will be a pre game buggy and farm implements parade throughout the communities prior to the big game, please vote for your favorite! Susan Pureheart Adventures On The River Bed and Breakfast will have free beds for everyone that has too much buttermilk and cookies. She will also have unlimited dirt pile sitting and skeeter swatting! AM 3250 will be broadcasting the game live, and will supply a brand new football for the game! Stay tuned to AM 3250 for all the high lights of this fun filled day! 38. 25 comments 1 share”
Image via Devinn Dakohta

My grandfather’s actual history of wear and tear, hard to discern sometimes due to his humor, still shows up in my work ethic… and attire. Most days pouring candles or processing wax, I wear an old Carhartt shirt you now see across Pinterest boards. But its functional familiarity never came to me as trendy, and it becoming the very definition of hipster chic was certainly not on any of my Bingo cards. 

Likewise, my grandmother’s own perseverance in learning and tending to that family field (with some Michigan fruit wine of course) is what led me to learn to beekeep in the first place. Her hardy flock of good time gal pals have yet to walk upon an obstacle on their land they can’t crack. The once abandoned bee boxes found behind the barn were no different. Despite being stung into a Benadryl-fueled stupor on my first attempt, my time there grew my appreciation for that sweet, sweet Michigan soil. If you’ve driven through swatches of fields, you know the sense of calm they contain. Her bounty a’plenty. 

While every market may have something new, you can always expect (and respect) the classics. Yes, of course Michigan is known for its beautiful apple orchards—and shoutout to Robinette’s in Grand Rapids for fresh donuts and cider year-round. But did you know Michigan ranks #1 in the country’s production of beans, cucumbers for pickling, asparagus, and cherries? As well as a leading producer of the country’s potatoes? Enough for every McDonalds east of the Mississippi that is. (Back up Idaho, we don’t want any smoke.) 

Over on the east side, the historic Ann Arbor Farmers Market has been in operation for over a century, serving the community with over 100 Michigan vendors. Those closer to Detroit have their own historic Eastern Market, which is the largest farmers market in Michigan. Over 40 acres of shopping makes it the largest historic public market in the United States. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1978, and open since 1891.

Ann Arbor farmer’s market with sign reading “Ann Arbor Farmer’s Market”.
Photo via City of Ann Arbor

For Yooper vacationers, the Marquette Farmers Market is an excellent option for whole and quality foods. The market puts on extra events like their Night Markets, indoor Holiday Markets, and live musical performances to bolster community outreach and attendance.

Downtown street in Marquette with tents for Marquette farmer’s market.
Photo via Marquette Farmer’s Market Instagram

Over in central Michigan the Midland Farmers Market is well worth a stop. Best to time it with the Midland Antique Festival if you can. It is the state’s largest Antique and Vintage Market (only place I’ve ever found a spyglass, at a very reasonable price). Be sure to get some fried perch from Bombers on your way out.

Photo of tents and people in parking lot for Midland farmer’s market.
Photo via Midland Farmer’s Market Instagram

Up and down the beautiful Lake Michigan coastline are plenty of options for those on the west side looking to relax by the water and refresh their kitchen all in one go. The Holland Farmers Market offers a beautiful and spacious closed-off street full of vendors, as well as an indoor food court, every Wednesday and Saturday. Best summer stroll you can find south of the Grand River. (Though I keep on walking until I hit Captain Sundae.)

Photo of metal pavilions, tents and people visiting stalls at Holland Farmer’s market.
Photo by Devinn Dakohta

All it takes is one day in the sun to realize that unpleasant glares of the supermarket—dour cashiers, surprising prices, fluorescent lights—aren’t your only option. Ditch the middleman and shop at the source. And why wouldn’t you? The seasons are palpable in Michigan, and not just at the Target home decor section.

See you at the Wickies table. 

Devinn Dakohta is a Michigan creative with heritage dating back to the start of the state. Splitting time between the farm and the city, she can be found writing, making candles, or performing stand-up comedy around Grand Rapids. Follow her on Instagram @Devinn.Dakohta / X @DevinnDakohta.

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