This year, the opening day of the East Lansing Farmer’s Market’s usual aroma of fresh produce was combined with the scent of fresh pavement.
The fifth year of the market began Sunday morning with a ribbon-cutting ceremony celebrating the completion of improvements to the market site. Improvements included the resurfacing of the parking lot, a permanent performance area, twice as much bicycle parking, walkways, basketball hoops and new landscaping, Community Events Assistant and Market Manager Abby Rudnicki said.
City of East Lansing Communications Coordinator Ami Van Antwerp estimated about 75 to 100 people attended the ribbon-cutting, and was pleased with the turnout, especially given the rainy weather beforehand.
She said East Lansing Mayor Nathan Triplett; city council members; and representatives from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Veritas Design Group and Laux Construction made appearances for the ribbon-cutting.
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation provided a $35,000 grant for the enhancements, and Veritas Design Group and Laux Construction were in charge of designing and implementing them.
Rudnicki said they were certain more than 200 customers attended, as the 200 reusable bags for the first arrivals were gone, but believed that number was far greater.
“Traffic has been steady,” she said. “There hasn’t been a lull yet.”
Large crowds came even despite the absence of some vendors. Because the East Lansing Farmer’s Market stipulates that vendors offer only 100 percent homegrown products, a few vendors did not attend the opening day because their crop was not yet ready.
Mike Metzger, a vendor for Hickory Knoll Farms Creamery, LLC, supports this policy.
“I think it’s important to get a taste of the true product,” he said.
Metzger provides goat cheese and said people have a bad impression of it because store-bought goat cheese is not fresh. He, on the other hand, milks 135 goats and two cows to produce fresh dairy products.
He said Sunday was his first time attending the East Lansing Farmer’s Market and — happy with his success at the market — he plans to continue coming each week.
“I’m overwhelmed,” he said, adding that the demand for his product outnumbered the supply.
Karen and Mark Manrique, from Delta Township in southwest Lansing, said they have been loyal customers to the market since it opened. Karen Manrique said they frequent the market each week unless they are out of town.
She said they feel it’s important to buy local at the farmer’s market because it’s healthier, supports the community, and causes “less problems with nature.” She also enjoys the entertainment each week and was pleased to see the new performance plaza.mr
“When we walked up, that’s the first thing we noticed,” Manrique said. “It’s great to have a permanent structure.”
Rob Klajda, the first musician to play on the new stage, said this is his third year performing at the market. He said it is much better to play beneath the permanent structure than the temporary tent used in past years.
He believes it will be nice for musicians to play in the shade on sunny days and not have to have electrical cords exposed to the elements in rainy weather.
Klajda said he enjoys playing at the East Lansing Farmer’s Market because of the “diverse audience and positive, upbeat atmosphere.”