The Flint Farmers Market Unveils Flint Food Works

  • By chelseajaie
  • 25 Jul, 2014

A culinary business incubator inside a century-old Flint tradition

Flint Farmers' Market
I’m sure you have heard about the new Flint Farmers’ Market which opened it’s doors on Saturday, June 21st. The facility is amazing and is the new home to over 50 year-round vendors as well as 50 additional seasonal vendors who set up outdoors. The market will keep the same schedule it had on its previous site, being open only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This allows the farmers and other vendors to be able to work their other jobs or farm and still be a part of the market.

Many of the vendors made the move to the new location, while some vendors retired… but their employees started new businesses to carry on the tradition of being in the market. There has also been expansion for other local Flint businesses. For example, Mark and Meghan Hoffman, who also are the proprietors of Hoffman’s Deco Deli & Café, located in downtown Flint, opened up two new businesses in the market: Hoffman’s Chop Shop, a butcher shop and Floradora Flower Shop. “For me, this has been a dream come true,” Meghan says. “I am overwhelmed by the support and love from my family, the community, my coworkers and friends! Much love…Flint ROCKS!”

What many of you don’t know is that the new Flint Farmers’ Market has several other offerings deep inside its walls that are available to help small businesses grow. “We brought the market closer to the people,” explains Chef Sean Gartland, Culinary Director. “No matter where you are, you can end up downtown because, right across the street from our parking
lot is the MTA Bus Station which gives easy access to everyone.” This easy accessibility is a sentiment echoed again and again. “The market is for everybody,” says Dick Ramsdell, manager of the new bazaar. “The new facility is going to allow us to accomplish so many good things in the city of Flint.”

Part of this movement is brought on by the fact that it is not easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables in Flint. Many
families can’t travel far to get to grocery stores in order to buy fresh produce, so they end up getting what they can at local convenience stores. Thus, in order to encourage the purchase of fresh produce by shoppers, the market has ‘Double- Up Food Bucks’ available to those with Bridge Cards. This program, funded by the Fair Food Network, allows residents to purchase staples (meat, cheese, milk) and receive up to $20/day in reward money which can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables. If they purchase Michigan produce, the residents actually will get double their produce money.

A stumbling block after the residents purchase the fresh produce is the fact that some do not know how to prepare it, which often results in much of the produce going to waste. So to combat this problem, Dort Federal Credit Union has sponsored the new demonstration kitchen inside the market atrium. This kitchen will have live demonstrations each week featuring different foods, techniques, styles and more. It will also allow guest chefs and market vendors the opportunity to showcase their products and talents. “I think it is important to note that we have four classically trained chefs with a permanent place in our market. In addition to those chefs, we have all the other market chefs who may not have classical training but have a natural skill and talent in the kitchen,” Karianne Martus, Media/ Public Relations and Market Manager states. “Our goal is to teach people how to prepare fresh food; we want to show them how to get the most out of their dollars and how to make healthy meals,” Martus further explains.

Chef Gartland has also been instrumental in the development of Flint Food Works, which is home to the Culinary Incubator Program within the walls of the new Flint Farmers’ Market. This program is a new resource for entrepreneurs who want to take the next steps in developing their food concepts into a viable business. It is also perfect for those entrepreneurs who already are operating under the small cottage industry food law in their homes, but who want to expand their businesses and have an opportunity to grow. “Business owners who are interested in being part of the Incubator Program will have the opportunity to practice their procedures with [me] before they are evaluated for their certifications by the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” Chef Gartland explains. “I will be able to help prevent many of the common mistakes [owners of] new food businesses make, hopefully making certification go smoother.” Flint Food Works provides low-cost, low-risk, full-service kitchens for local businesses to grow and establish operations. The participants in the program will be guided and coached along their way, and there are a variety of resources available to those in the program, including packaging, website, design, distribution and more.

One of the vendors in the market, Galloping Grocer, specializes in the distribution of locally-made and high quality products. With this vendor at the market, participants in the Culinary Incubator program will have a warm introduction to a possible distribution resource for their products. “This is the perfect spot for someone who has [the] dream of launching a food business,” Chef Gartland explains. “A person who works all day can put the kids to bed at night come into the kitchen for a few hours [later] to produce [his or her] product and be back home and in bed…[ to] wake up with the kids in the morning.” This new concept also allows participants to keep their day jobs while they launch a new business -- without missing a beat. Well, maybe they will miss just a little sleep.

To apply to the program and become a member, there are several steps to take, including application, insurance, certifications, licensing, packaging and going through a kitchen orientation. Sound overwhelming? There’s no need to worry, for Chef Gartland will guide people through the process and help them on their way to make their dreams a reality.

(810) 447-0714

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