Third Annual Homegrown Festival: a smashing success

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Angie Beach her daughter Shelly, 5, husband Sunny and 5-month-old son River check out a booth during the Homegrown Festival held at the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown on Saturday night.

Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

The first HomeGrown Festival took place at the Community High School in the rain. Few braved the puddles - giving me the chance to corner Mayor Hieftje for a five-minute conversation about his work on the Michigan Climate Action Council, his vision for Ann Arbor’s green energy usage, solar panels and new streetlights for downtown. Last year the Festival moved to Kerrytown and was a booming success, so much so that now, three years later, I was unable to have a five-minute conversation with anyone this past Saturday night.

Food, wine, beer, information, smiles, hugs, laughter, and great music swelled around Kerrytown - a glorious celebration of the all that is homegrown in southeast Michigan.

As John Harnois, of Harnois Farm, shared with me, “This is my first festival, and it took me forever to get from one end to the other - hours - because everyone is here - people I know, people I don’t know - people are quick to start up conversations.”

Many of those having conversations were vendors who had been up since the crack of dawn to prepare for the Ann Arbor Farmers Market at 7 a.m. Mill Pond Bread baker, Gabe Blauer, unrolled his spine as he stood to talk to me over the boxes of fresh foccacia. Borden - Silent Auction at the HomeGrown Festival

“What time is it? Almost 9! Wow, we are doing almost twice as well as we did last year. We have been working since 6 at the festival and up since 4 to do the farmers market. But it is totally worth it.”

Maitelates Chocolates founder Maite Zubia expressed similar enthusiasm as we watched the milling crowd, oversaw her abundant piles of delicious alfajores, and watched the patient participants waiting for wine tickets. “Just look at this -- it is fun! I am having fun with my eyes. Today was market day in the morning and still -- it is worth it, it is fun.”

Jenn Fike, CEO of Food System Economic Partnership (FSEP), has participated in all three festivals. She felt the festival’s success was due to people’s interest, “in where their food is coming from and wanting to buy direct from farmers and …” Other thoughts she may have wanted to share with me were muffled as she was pulled into a squealing hug.

Amanda Segar and Maggie Smith, of the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA), were joining the festival for the first time. According to Segar, they were seeking to meet “farmers market vendors and enthusiasts and to spread the word about our organization.” The two ladies wore identical grins of excitement as people pushed towards their booth to read about the good work MIFMA is doing with Bridge Cards and to answer their survey, “Why do you shop at farmers markets?”

The third year of the Festival brought in many people from all over southeast Michigan. One visitor to the Westside Farmers Market table shared that his family drove in for the Festival from Sterling Heights. “You have the best of everything in Ann Arbor,” he opined.

Wading through the sea of people continually pouring into the vibrant celebration, I felt the same way.

Here is the article on annarbor.com.