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Rockford Farm Market business model hard to beat | Business

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Rockford Farm Market business model hard to beat
Rockford Farm Market business model hard to beat

ROCKFORD, Mich.-- In recent years, two areas of growth in Michigan's economy have been microbreweries and farm markets.

But alas, too much of a good thing is often times counter-productive. It seems such is the case with farm markets, which have been sprouting like weeds all over the country. A pie can only be sliced so many ways and with adjoining communities each bringing their own farmers market to the table, it's unfortunately inevitable that only the strong will survive. 

Locally, Plainfield Township and Sparta both have farm markets that are struggling because of competition and operating expenses. They incur numerous costs, such as administration, an on-site market master and advertising.

The Plainfield-sponsored Farm Market, open two days a week, is in direct competition weekly with the powerhouse Rockford Farm Market a scant five miles away. With attendance dwindling and costs of operation escalating, Plainfield has considered going from two days of operation to one day or eliminating their farmers market altogether. Both Plainfield and Sparta have been struggling to attract quality farm market vendors while trying to build patronage.        

Meanwhile a short distance away, the Rockford Farm Market, voted America's favorite in a 2011 nationwide contest, has grown bigger and stronger every year since its inception in 2001.  Rockford's Farm Market is a "Pure Michigan" farm market that brings everything the cornucopia of Michigan agriculture and produced food-stuffs has to offer to the thousands of "foodies" that flock to it every Saturday morning, from May through October. 

Rockford, it seems, has a better way of doing things. Its Farm Market operates altruistically without a single cent of expense to the taxpayers of the City of Rockford. City Treasurer Kim McKay, in addition to her treasurer duties and other city-related tasks, somehow finds the time to also act as Rockford's market administrator, handling all the paperwork and behind-the-scenes organization. It's no easy task, but the multi-talented and capable McKay thoroughly enjoys every moment. 

Also without cost to the City of Rockford, as a service project, the Rockford Lions Club act as Market Masters overseeing the market's operations every Saturday morning. 

The Rockford Farm Market has never relied upon, nor used, expensive paid advertising to hype the market in order to increase attendance; the market has grown exponentially every year strictly by word-of-mouth. 

Attendees from all over West Michigan love the eclectic mix offered up by the Rockford market vendors. They love the social gathering aspect of the market and the interaction between one another and the market's vendors who are all local farming families and food producers. Over the years they have come to know one another on a first name basis. Patrons of the market also appreciate the absence of a "flea market" atmosphere, offering crafts and non-food items that are present in so many other farmers market venues.

The Rockford Farm Market is a Saturday morning destination venue and a source of pride to the peoples of the City of Rockford.

According to McKay, "We're not resting on our laurels. In future years, the best is yet to come!"

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