Made in Michigan


Every Saturday morning, the Marquette Commons, usually home to only a few empty picnic tables, comes alive with the Downtown Marquette Farmers’ and Artisans’ Market.

Since its move from Citgo’s parking lot, the market, which is back for its second year, has grown considerably, said Market Manager Anna Patrick.

Spread out over 20 tables, you can find local produce, handmade jewelry, soaps and candles, organic breads and several different types of original artwork, including paintings and sculptures, Patrick said.

Patrick has been managing the farmers’ market for the past two years, and said she enjoys the atmosphere.

“You’d be surprised at how much better it is to buy here than from a grocery store. From here, your money stays in the community and you’re not paying to have your food shipped from California,” she said.

Erica Lensink, NMU student and former president of Sustainable Agriculture, said she shops at the farmers’ market for that same reason.

“[Shopping at the market] is better for the environment because the food isn’t coming from thousands or hundreds of miles away. It uses a lot less gas,” Lensink said. “And the food is fresher. It’s usually picked within 24 hours.”

Peter Claybaker, a weekly vendor at this year’s market, has been selling his organic artisan bread at the farmers’ market for the past two years.

He’s been baking bread for his business, Marquette Baking Company, since June of last year. Claybaker started out renting Jean Kaye’s Pasties at night to bake his bread.

“I wanted to try it out first, since there are a lot of bakeries around here. I wanted to see how much interest there would be in my bread without investing in a bakery. And things have been going really great,” he said.

The interest seemed to be high, as Claybaker’s stand, which was home to breads such as three-seed sourdough, walnut raisin and ciabatta, was one of the more popular at the market. As people, many of whom were on a first-name basis with Claybaker, lined up to buy bread, they chatted about new bread recipes or their family updates since the week before.

Although he’ll soon have a store open by the Children’s Museum, Claybaker said he’s going to continue to sell at the farmers’ market.

“I love selling at the market. It’s my favorite day of the week. It’s just a nice, community gathering place . It’s very alive,” he said.

The atmosphere at the market was another appeal for Lensink, who said she enjoyed visiting the market with her friends.

“We like to make it a social thing. We go to the market together, maybe get some coffee. It’s a lot more fun than a grocery store aisle,” she said.

Hilija Spiessl of Spiessl Produce said her family’s business has been selling at the market for the past five years. Most of the produce sold in her stand comes from downstate farms, she said.

“We were here back when this was in [Citgo’s parking lot],” she added.

The community feel at the market was one of Speissl’s favorite things about having a stand there.

“We get a lot of repeat traffic here, but sometimes we get someone who comes by for the first time. That’s always fun,” she said.

While other vendors came back for another year at the downtown market, Linda Hirvonen was a newcomer. This was her first year selling her homemade jewelry.

“I love [the farmers’ market]. It’s wonderful. I’ve only missed one week since I started coming . The energy here is wonderful,” she said.

Hirvonen said she’d been collecting stones for some time.

“I cannot come back from the beach without some stones in my pockets,” she said. “I retired last year, and so I decided to do something with my stones.”

All the stones used in Hirvonen’s jewelry come from in and around the Marquette area. After polishing them up, she uses the stones to make, among other things, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.

Though many major chains, like Econo Foods and Wal-Mart, are beginning to sell organic products, Lensink still urged NMU students to do their shopping at the farmers’ market.

Lensink said she used to work for Dancing Crane Farms, and has had experience both selling at a farmers’ market and buying from one.

“I think it’s important for students to make a connection with who’s growing their food,” she said. “And they don’t just sell produce [at the market]. You can get children’s toys, breads, art, a lot of stuff.”

The market, which began in June, will run through Dec. 20. It takes place every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Marquette Commons. Credit, debit and bridge cards are all accepted. If you’re looking to become a vendor, a booth costs $50 for the season.