With rhubarb, asparagus and other early spring veggies done for the season, organizers of the Dexter Farmer’s Market made this weekend a special one devoted to crafts and art.
“We wanted to make this a fun, small community focused event that people could bring their children to enjoy today,” said Dexter Farmer’s Market Manager Brenda Tuscano. This Saturday’s market was going to be a larger-scale event with more artists, but organizers decided to keep things low key.
A miniature “chalk-the-block” was led by Chris Monaghan and Tuscano. Dozens of area children came out to add their own art to the concrete leading from the steps up from Mill Creek Park towards the market awnings in one direction and the Dexter District Library in the other.
Many vendors sold dried goods, canned goods, stuffed animals, bird houses and the like with smatterings of plants and a very limited assortment of produce to be had at this point in the season.
Kimberely Pendygraft, owner of Madison’s Closet was one of the vendors on hand. She is participating in Dexter Farmer’s Market for the first time this year, after several of her devoted customers from Dexter made the 40-mile trek to Pinckney to visit her at that community’s own farmer’s market.
“I looked into it on the Michigan Farmer’s Market website — it looked like a good venue and I wanted to provide the convenience for my customers in Dexter,” Pendygraft said. She participates in 18 farmer’s markets within a 60-mile radius of Pinckney.
She says Dexter’s as good a place as any that she’s gone to share the literal fruits of her passion for pie fillings, jams and suckers. She also sells baked goods and had limited produce for sale.
After learning cajun style cooking and canning while working as an assistance worker in the areas struck by Hurrican Katrina 10 years ago, Pendygraft has made it her mission to espouse the virtues of canning.
Having spent years helping hurricane victims and seeing local communities pitch in to help their own, she said that she sees a lot of similar community energy and spirit at Dexter’s farmer’s market.
“There’s definitely a lot of people here participating … and this is the only farmer’s market I go to that has an awning like this — the only other two are Ann Arbor and Detroit,” she added.
Janet and Noal Brown have been participating in the Dexter Farmer’s Market for 13 years now. They’ve been around long enough to see the number of visitors grow from a sparse trickle of visitors to a solid stream of people who come from all over the county to see what Dexter’s going to have on the tables.
“I’ve always enjoyed this, it’s a lot of fun,” Janet said. “We’ve met a lot of nice people over the years, both vendors and customers. I think the key to doing well here is to enjoy what you do and do a variety of things.”
Janet’s table had an assortment of flavored nuts and trail mixes, as well as dry rubs and jams. She also had a “dammit doll” skinned in various sports teams, so those who are prone to throwing remotes, shoes or whatever else is handy can have an option that won’t leave a crack in the plasma TV. Noal sells reasonably priced bluebird houses, and eagerly spoke of the virtues of providing nesting for bluebirds year-round.
Tom and Kathy Shurmrr stood at a table with jugs of “worm tea” and bags of worm castings to make your own worm brew. Most passersby were relieved to hear that the Shurmur worm tea is meant to be poured on the ground, as opposed to being sipped with a scone.
“We always get a lot of people here who are interested in our products,” Kathy said. The Shurmurs bought their Dexter area farm three years ago, thinking their 10 acres were fallow from decades of farming leeching the minerals and nutrients from their soil, as well as decades of chemical saturation from pesticides.
It turns out that visitors to a farmer’s market are also the same kind of folks who enjoy planting their own fruits, veggies and flowers. A jug of worm tea is $20 and can work wonders on your plants if used within 48 hours of it being made, according to the Shurmurs. A $5 bag of worm castings can make a good runner-up soil boosting solution when steeped in a 5-gallon bucket of hot water overnight.
Many visitors to the Shurmurs’ table heard about the strawberry plants that the pair transplanted to the soil on their farm. Those transplanted to holes drenched in worm tea are doing better. Next week the Shurmurs are going to begin harvesting garlic on their once life-drained land.
Sue Aeschliman described the average turnout at the farmer’s market as “booming,” while visitors to her table looked over her assortment of brownies, flower arrangements, spinach and even musical albums that she has produced over the years.
“I’m really looking forward to getting away from my table in a bit to look at what everybody else has today,” she said. “I’ve been coming here for 10 years now … everyone always has an interesting assortment of stuff here each year.”
For more information on the Dexter Farmer’s Market, visit its website on the City of Dexter’s page here.
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