ANN ARBOR – Did you know that the Ann Arbor Farmers Market has a new manager?
Stefanie Stauffer joined the market in May 2020, and recently told A4 about her first year in the position -- which included quickly adapting operations during a pandemic -- and the mark she hopes to leave on the beloved market moving forward.
When she’s not busy teaching sociology at Washtenaw Community College, Stauffer can be seen at the Detroit Street market as it continues to see the arrival of more spring vendors.
Stauffer, who did her PhD dissertation in local food movements in Michigan, sits on the board of Growing Hope. But what most connects her to the market scene is the fact that she is a farmer herself.
“I’ve actually been an Ypsilanti Farmers Market vendor for over a decade,” said Stauffer. “So, I came with more of a vendor perspective.”
She specializes in peppers, and also sells heirloom tomatoes and seedlings. Although she didn’t do any in-person markets in the past year, she sells her produce at Argus Farm Stop.
Stauffer’s first months at the helm of Ann Arbor Farmers Market coincided with the start of the coronavirus pandemic. She took over just two weeks after the market reopened, and the typically jam-packed market suddenly had signs reminding people to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Summer 2021 market
Stauffer said that very little will change from last year’s summer market to now, aside from new handwashing stations.
“We (now) have handwashing sinks throughout the market,” she said. “Being a city entity, we had our maintenance staff basically build them for us. They connect to our regular faucets that each stall has.”
The market will still be offering curbside pick up for those who choose a contactless shopping experience. However, the market office is closed to shoppers, and will have a walk-up window for tokens.
The first Wednesday market of 2021 will take place on May 5, also marking the start of regular season hours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Stauffer said due in part to early crops this year, some vendors have come back early.
“We’ve had 50-55 vendors the past couple of weeks,” she said. “Previously, we would be excited to have 30 vendors in the late winter, early spring.”
Currently, patrons can find a wide variety of items at the Saturday market, including lettuce, micro greens, herbs, apples, jams, baked goods, meats, eggs, cheese, bread, soaps and more.
“We have a really good mixture right now of all of our vendors,” said Stauffer. “I’ve also seen edible flowers, which is exciting.”
Changes for the future
Looking ahead, Stauffer shared some changes she’d like to make to the market.
“For me, one of my personal long term goals is I’m really trying to diversify the vendor base,” she said. “And I think it needs to reflect our community more directly in terms of who are the owners and who are our vendors. I’ve been trying to add more Black-owned businesses.”
Kerrytown is Ann Arbor’s historically Black neighborhood, something Stauffer said many people might not know.
“I think it’s even more important given the location of our market that we offer space to everyone that wants it,” she said.
With many multi-generational farmers on the vendor roster, Stauffer said she would also like to see the addition of some newer, younger vendors.
However, she said the current situation limits the market’s ability to expand.
“We’ve put a pause on accepting new vendors right now so a stall can be empty between vendors where it’s possible,” said Stauffer. “We have a lot of people that want to join the market -- especially now, given that maybe their restaurant was closed or Art Fair didn’t happen. We’ve had a lot more inquiries, but we’ve had to prioritize our current vendors and make the tough call.”
Perhaps surprisingly, some vendors reported a highly profitable season during the pandemic.
“We’ve definitely seen a lot of support this year and some of the vendors have told me it’s the best year they’ve had,” she said. “I think it’s a combination of people feeling safe outside and wanting to support local businesses.”
For now, you can shop at the market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information about the Ann Arbor Farmers Market and to see its pre-order directory for curbside pick up, visit the market’s website.
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