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Finally, we are really open

The Farmers Market is open!” I remember standing on the south bricks of the Sundquist Pavilion on Opening Day, May 8, shouting out those words as the market bell rang. But it didn’t seem open. Covid restrictions were very much in place from last summer – hurricane fencing around Riley Park, forced entrances and exits, strict guidance for navigating the market, and, of course, mask mandates.
 
But last Saturday, our fifth market of the year, was different. With Art on the Grand’s scores of people and our market shoppers filling downtown Farmington, we truly were open: no fencing, no forced entrances, no masks. This time I could say it and mean it: The market is open!
 
We took our guidance from the Governor’s Office and the Michigan Farmers Market Association, who agreed that, as of June 1, outdoor markets – and I emphasize outdoor – will no longer require masks, whether you’re vaccinated or not. It’s a tell-tale sign that the vaccination rate is high enough to make mask wearing discretionary.  Sanitizer machines still dot the market, and free masks are available at our Information Tent. But in some ways these remain the last vestiges of what will be remembered as “another time” in our lives. Which brings me to …
 
Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters
 
It happens every week: A call goes out for market volunteers. It’s the same call issued last season when the pandemic raged. Our volunteers, in service to community, raised their hands week in and week out to man the entrances and exits, help with curbside pickups, direct traffic flow, assist vols-(1).jpgcustomers to find their way and make vendors feel safe while we collected weekly Covid screening forms. It was during this time of the greatest exposure to the virus that I honestly felt safest – In a circle of fellowship that forged friendship and the camaraderie of family.  
 
(Oddly enough, I felt the most isolated and vulnerable in the safety of my own home, watching the dire headlines and bitter political discourse pour into my house through the nightly news. Weird.)
 
I can’t help but think of a concert given by Elton John in October 2001 in New York’ s Madison Square Garden. It was in tribute to the city’s police, fire and Emergency Medical Services who kept working in the rubble of the World Trade Center day and night. John dedicated to them and the city his song, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”:
 
While Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters …
Turn around and say good morning to the night …
I thank the Lord there are people out there like you.
I thank the Lord there are people out there like you…
 
I am grateful for the quiet dignity and courage shown by our own Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters who faced down the rabbit hole of the virus week after week. I thank the Lord there are people out there like you.
 
Coming in, heading out and coming up at the market
 
The Market is an ever-changing dynamic. Because we are a Michigan grower market, we offer food only in season. That’s why, when you come once to market, you find you have to come the next week and the next and the next because it’s always a different market.
 
For instance, asparagus has been headlining our marquee for much of the past five weeks, but it and the early greens are now running their course. So we welcome a relative newcomer, Michigan strawberries! To me nothing says summer-is-coming quite like biting into a juicy, sweet, fresh-picked strawberry from our Michigan farms. So let’s celebrate!
 
June 19 marks the Market’s seventh annual Strawberry Shortcake Day at the market hosted by Kapnick Orchards of Britton and Calder Dairy of Carleton. Friends of the Market volunteers will assemble 500 servings of fresh strawberries on scratch-made biscuits topped with freshly whipped cream, the operative words being fresh and scratch-made. I will have more to say in a special column next week about this Farmers Market fundraiser.
 
Also on June 19, we welcome the Farmington & Farmington Hills Foundations for Youth & Families, which is celebrating 25 years of community support. Part of that support can be found in our children’s Power of Produce (POP!) program, which helps teach kids where food comes from. Sidelined last year by the pandemic, I am happy to announce that POP! will return this summer. I will stay in touch and you can, too, by visiting www.farmingtonfarmersmarket.com.  
 
It’s time to get ready for another week at the Market, so here’s saying, as always, “Until next time, see you at the Market!”