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Roller coaster week in Farm Market contest

Long time Cedar Springs/Rockford area farmer, Merrell Post from Post Farms, is back for the 11th year at Rockford Farm Market. Post Farms produces fruits, vegetables, flowers and the “best sweet corn in the world.” (L – R) Walt Chapton and the man himself, Merrell Post.

by Cliff and Nancy Hill

What a ride it was last week for Rockford’s Farm Market in the America’s Favorite Farm Market contest.  Our once comfortable lead in the small market size category (16 – 30 vendors) was nearly wiped out by our evil archrival Venice, FL.  Almost as bad, towards the end of the week we lost our lofty position as overall leader in all market size categories to Las Cruces, NM.

The news is much better this week however.  Rockford’s Farm Market is maintaining a respectable lead against Venice, and we are happy to report that we have closed the gap with Las Cruces, NM and are in striking distance of again regaining the nationwide lead (as of Tuesday evening). Our little sister farm market in Manistique, MI is also holding its own against its competition (Punta Gorda, FL) with a slight lead in their boutique market size category (15 or less vendors).

We woke up early last Saturday morning to a thunderstorm dumping buckets of rain on Rockford threatening to wash the Rockford Farm Market into the Rogue River.  Just what we didn’t need because voter turnout at farm market has been our greatest source of votes in our ever-increasing voting totals.  Thankfully, the storm clouds parted around 8 a.m. and the market faithful, along with first timers, turned out from near and far.

In response to radio, TV, and newspaper coverage regular market goers, who hadn’t as yet voted, and first timers, wanting to see what all of the buzz was about, arrived from all over West Michigan to swell our vote totals and fill their market baskets with a cornucopia of freshly harvested, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

Sitting at our voting table every Saturday we have been heartened by people telling us they have become addicted to checking voting totals on the contest’s website (www.farmland.org/vote).  They tell us they are also using social media (facebook, twitter, etc) to reach out to their many “friends” urging them to also vote for Rockford’s Farm Market.

Apparently our news partners, the Manistique, MI Pioneer Tribune newspaper and closer to home, the Cedar Springs Post are reaching out to their readers in a way that is also increasing our voting totals.  First time visitors to our market from Cedar Springs have told us that they didn’t even know of our farm market, let alone the contest, until they read about it in the Post.  Our mutual aid pact has resulted in voters from West Michigan voting for the Manistique Farm Market and voters from all over the U.P. voting for Rockford’s Farm Market.  We even learned that the Sault Indian Nation peoples of the U.P. have also been encouraged, in their regular newsletter, to support the Rockford Farm Market by casting a vote our way.  Talk about gratifying.

It only gets better. Market Master “Lion Bob” Winegar has secured the presence of a new vendor at Farm Market. This particular vendor might turn out to be the long-sought missing link needed to round out the market’s offerings.  New at market last week was the Woodbridge Dairy Farm from Byron Center, MI who fills the need for a vendor offering grass-fed beef and milk-fed pork processed and packaged in various cuts.  A limited selection is currently available until September when they harvest their animals and refill their freezers.

Woodbridge Dairy Farm’s animals are treated with no drugs or hormones.  Their steers are born and raised on pasture. Grass-fed, they do get the option of corn silage and hay (also chemical free) raised on their farm. Pigs are treated to the luxury of fresh milk from the farm’s dairy cattle. They love it and grow well with milk. They have the farm’s corn available to them but they like the milk better. Milk fed pork has a creamier taste and a texture that cuts with a fork. The farm’s butchered offerings are processed and packaged by the USDA certified Byron Center Meats. A full and complete line of all of the farm’s meat offerings will be available at the Rockford Farm Market during the entire month of October.

We encourage everyone who hasn’t cast a vote for Rockford’s Farm Market to climb on the bandwagon. Votes may be cast online at: www.farmland.org/vote or by visiting Rockford’s downtown Farm Market Saturday morning (8 a.m.–1 p.m.) during the final two weeks of the contest to cast your vote in person. Remember Manistique’s Farm Market would appreciate a vote also.

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