After 5 years and 2.8 million visitors, Flint Farmers' Market looks to grow more

FLINT, Michigan — Five years and 2.8 million visitors later, the Flint Farmers’ Market is setting the stage for more growth with a new parking option, additional food trucks, and a new app that allows you to shop locally from your phone.

The Flint Farmers’ Market opened June 21, 2014 and enjoyed triumphant reborn success at its more central downtown location. Located in the former Flint Journal printing press building at 300 E. First St., it’s been named one of the best markets in the nation and brings in well over a half-million customers a year. 

It is home to 45 year-round vendors, 35 seasonal outdoor vendors, 5 venues for community events and more than doubled the foot traffic at the market’s previous East Boulevard location.

The Flint Farmers’ Market now is looking to expand further with new changes and ways to encourage commerce and community, says Karianne Martus, market manager. 

“(We want to) continue to make the market a welcoming place for everyone and the best way to do that is to partner with people that touch different segments of our community,” she says. “Frankly, we want our community to continue to grow and to make our community better.”   

As part of a press conference highlighting a series of changes at the market, the newly renovated ELGA Credit Union Demonstration Kitchen was unveiled Tuesday, June 4, 2019. 
 
“The space allows local organizations to host cooking demonstrations that teach residents how to explore healthy lifestyles and learn more about the importance of nutrition for health and wellness,” said Karen Church, ELGA Credit Union CEO.

The market is also opening a pathway to welcome more food entrepreneurs with its new Pavilion Patio, where space will be reserved for food trucks every market day. With grass carpet and patio decor, the space will also be home to the Flint Handmade Guild Arts and Crafts Street Fair every Saturday. 

The move brings small businesses, farmers and local artists all together at the market, says Crystal Pepperdine, executive director of Flint Handmade. “We are really excited to take part in the pavilion this summer. We have been participating the last four years with a street fair, but we didn’t really feel as connected to the market as we could be,” she says. “Without community engagement you just have business, food service and venues, but when you build community you have friends, you have neighbors, and colleagues. I would much rather be a part of a community, than a transaction.”

The market is also promoting a new parking option. Teaming up with the Mass Transportation Authority, trolley rides will be offered every 15 minutes from the White Building parking lot along Fifth Avenue on the campus of the University of Michigan-Flint. The trolley will also stop at seven other popular downtown destinations including Churchills, the UM-Flint Pavilion, and Soggy Bottom Bar. 

The trolley will operate 8 a.m to 5 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, MTA General Manager Ed Benning says.

“As a longtime friend of the market, MTA has been working to find solutions to parking challenges created by our now bustling downtown,” he says.

And, the market is looking to make shopping itself even more convenient. It teamed up with Mott Community College Culinary Arts alumnus Brent Diggs Jr. to develop a shopping and delivery service app called Upick Grocery Delivery Service through the Flint Farmers’ Market.

“It’s great to know where your food comes from, but some people may not have the ability to get down to the market,” says Diggs, now a business administration student at Ferris State University. “It’s important to shop local from our state, but also to make sure that people that want those goods get them delivered to their home.” 

The app will be piloted in June to test and fine-tune its service.

The Flint Farmers’ Market is located at 300 E. First Street in downtown Flint. It is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit FlintFarmersMarket.com. 

Read more articles by Jake Carah.

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