If you didn’t already know, I’ve been setting up shop outside of my friend’s Chiropractic office in Rochester during the farmer’s market hours, slinging eggs and chicken, talking story with the locals. It’s been great so far and I honestly looked forward to it every week.
However, last week, outside of my good friend’s business, doing my local food thing, an officer pulled up and asked if I had a permit. I was caught off guard, and muttered something like, "no, I had no idea I needed one". He simply said I did, and that I needed to go to city hall. I tried to explain that this was my friend’s place of business and that she had invited me to use her property. Apparently, it doesn't matter what the owner says, because the real owner is the township and I need a permit. 👎He was nice enough to not give me a citation and allowed me to stay for the rest of my planned time. 🙌
So, I went home and did my research on what kind of permit I needed, and after an hour and a half of reading through all the mumbo jumbo, the closest thing I could find was a block party permit. 🧐I know my eggs and I are fun, but we’re not that fun.
Then I thought, alright, I'll just sign up to do the actual farmer’s market, that shouldn't be too hard. 🙄 It really isn't that hard, I just need liability insurance (which we have) and a retail sales tax license (which we don't have). We don't have this because as a seller of unprepared food, we are not required to charge or pay sales taxes in the state of Michigan. But everyone that participates in any farmer’s market must have one of these. Alright, so I'll go ahead and get one of those. After searching the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s website for over half an hour, I still can't find what I think I need. I attempt to fill out an application, but none of the criteria applies to me. On top of that, I really have no idea what I'm looking at. I'm not a lawyer, but apparently you need to be one to read all of this crap. If you didn't know, to be a farmer you need to be a lawyer, computer science major, mechanic, accountant, master gardener, veterinarian, meteorologist, carpenter (rough and finished), artist, english major, magician, multitasker who can run on 0-7 hours of sleep, delivery truck driver, and of course be numb to all things negative that come your way, and boy are there plenty. Did I forget anything? 🙃
Ok, got a little off topic for a second...so, if you're as frustrated as I am, don't worry, it gets better. Once you get all of the licenses and check all of the boxes that the lovely government wants you to check, you still need to apply to the farmer’s market and be "accepted". Which, after reading all of their policies, means we probably won't be able to get in. Why you ask? Well, farmer’s markets don't want too many of the same types of vendors, so they limit them to roughly 2 per market. Since I know there are two vendors already selling chicken and eggs, we'll most likely be put on a waiting list. Now, I get that they don't want 10 meat vendors selling the exact same thing and nothing else. But everyone does things a little differently, and it's a freaking farmer’s market for crying out loud, local meat and veggies are what they should be offering an abundance of. That and plants. I love the vendors that are growing and selling veggie starts, beautiful flowers and arranged cutesy chicken pots or hanging baskets. Oh, and a few other stands that make sense to me, offering honey, jellies, cottage baked goods, dried meats guy, and elderberry syrup products. But these too are limited to 2 or 3 per market. Instead of giving many farmers a chance, they need to save room to add variety for such things like a coffee stand (didn't know Michigan grew coffee), pop-corn vendor (I actually am not angered by this one since corn can be grown in Michigan, but I doubt it is, and I’m betting this person didn’t farm any of it), a "local" bakery (whom has multiple locations around the Metro-Detroit area, which I would consider a chain), the guy that sharpens blades 🤷♀️, and of course, a hot dog cart (most likely not a local food).
And this is not just a "Rochester" thing, this is how all farmer’s markets work. When I go to the grocery store, almost every product has well over 2 choices for companies. Why isn't this happening at a farmer’s market? Why can't everyone be given a shot to participate in the market, and then let the customers decide?
The real "insult to injury" in all of this? I didn't even want to participate in a farmer’s market in the first place. The truth is it's actually not all of the paper work, laws, or politics that really gets my goat. It's the mere fact that most people that go to farmers markets aren't actually going to buy food. They're going because it's a fun social event to get their kids and dogs out of the house on a Saturday and maybe pick something up that strikes them in the moment. It's totally trendy right now, and people like trendy.
My favorite farmer Joel Salatin talks about this a lot, and I finally saw it first hand. I would watch gobs of people head down to the market with their strollers full of kids (and even dogs, no joke) and come back with a coffee and a tiny bag with some "breakfast" pastry in it. When Rob and I went to the farmers market, we would strap our giant cooler to a dolly, pull it up to our favorite farmers, and load up for 2-3 weeks worth of food. Before we were actually producing anything, we were fortunate to get to dine with the great Joel Salatin. I told him this story and he looked at me like I was an alien and told me I was every farmers dream customer but sadly we were not the norm. I didn't really believe that until the last few weeks.
Don't get me wrong, I love engaging with people who want to know more about their food. That's why I tried to get out in front of people at the market. I thought doing it, but not really doing it, was going to be the perfect marriage. Alas, my crafty plan has been halted and for now at least, this door has closed, but when one door closes, three other doors may open. 🤷♀️🙏🚪We will still be able to drop off our amazing products at Health and Healing Chiropractic, thank goodness for those awesome ladies. Check out the purchase page to see how.
What do you think? Should we continue to try to get into the markets?