A customer lingers indecisively over the collection of honey jars, then picks up the smaller one for $3.
“You’re gonna like it so much you’ll wish you bought the $6 one,” jokes Mike Smith, handing her some change.
Smith is one of about a dozen vendors at Thursday afternoon’s West Side Farmers Market, set up in the parking lot next to Zingerman’s Roadhouse at the corner of Jackson and Maple. They’re selling pumpkins and potatoes, mums in all shades of autumn, eggs, garlic, tomatoes – the harvest is bountiful.
But though it’s hot and feels like summer, it’s the final day of the season for this market.
The vibe is different here, mellower, than the larger Ann Arbor Farmers Market, which runs on Wednesdays and Saturdays through December, then Saturdays only from January through April. Unlike that one, the West Side Farmers Market doesn’t charge for booth space, and is operated by volunteers, says Jen Salisbury, market manager.
There are also special touches, like the Farm to Fork stand, where chef Mark Baerwolf prepares tastings made from produce sold by other vendors. On Thursday, he’s making sweet potato pancakes on his outdoor stove. (Baerwolf, a chef at the Roadhouse, keeps a blog about Cornman Farms, the farmstead of the restaurant’s head chef and managing partner, Alex Young.)
Many of the vendors say they like the market mostly for making contacts with their customers, getting to know both the regulars and the others who bring goods to market. Lisa Waud, who runs a container gardening service called Pot & Box (and writes a blog called green thumb black dog), sells flowers and herbs, but mainly sees it as a way to promote her service business. “It’s been really fun,” she says.
And now it’s done – see you next June!