CADILLAC — Gloria Roderick remembers the first year of the Cadillac Area Farmers Market, when the city set up a canopy in a parking lot south of where the Rotary Performing Arts Pavilion now exists.

The canopy didn't last long, however, as delinquent youngsters tore it down the first night.

That was nearly 40 years ago, and a lot has changed since that time.

While they no longer have to worry about their canopy being torn down by deviant marauders, Roderick joked that she still hasn't mastered setting one up.

"Never did I get to the point where I can put one up easily," Roderick laughed.

Roderick, who is president of the farmers market committee, remembers the cost of produce was quite a bit different in 1980 compared to now — about $5 a bushel as opposed to $25, roughly speaking.

At the beginning, Roderick said the farmers market was started by a woman named Reanna Tice who owned a market where Walraven's Market currently exists in Cadillac West.

From its inception, the farmers market has been a place where local fruit, vegetable and other commodity growers can sell their produce directly to the public.

From their original location, they eventually moved across Lake Street to a gravel parking lot next to the AMVETS building, and last year, they moved to the aptly named Market at Cadillac Commons.

"As the market expanded, we expanded," said Jean Kohler, who has served as market manager for the past 18 years.

Kohler, who operated a dairy farm with her husband south of Cadillac for many years, became involved in the farmers market around 2003 after she asked Roderick if she needed any help in her garden.

A couple of days later, at Roderick's urging, the committee asked Kohler if she'd be interested in being manager and she accepted the proposal.

As manager, Kohler has been responsible for collecting vendor fees, depositing fees at the bank, keeping track of market paperwork and attending all meetings.

She and Roderick also have been instrumental in bringing a number of programs to the farmers market to increase its value to the community.

Two of those programs are connected to the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and involve the use of coupons that can be used to purchase produce at the market. Another program is a partnership with the Cadillac Senior Center to give area seniors access to farmers market produce, and another doubles the amount of money spent with a Bridge Card toward items at the market.

After 18 years serving as market manager, Kohler, 85, will be stepping down and handing over the reins to 35-year-old Mary Galvanek.

Kohler's looking forward to staying home and relaxing; market reporting requirements have changed over the years and made the job of manager much tougher, she said.

Although originally natives of this area, Galvanek, her husband and their four children (two biological and two adopted), moved back to the Cadillac area last fall after living in Denver, Colorado for a time.

With four kids to take care of, Galvanek kidded that one of her motivations for getting involved in the farmers market was because she needed "as many grandmas as I can get."

When she lived in Denver, Galvanek managed a farmers market there and hopes to bring some of the tricks she learned in Colorado to the Cadillac Area Farmers Market.

"I thought this would be a great way to become a part of the community," Galvanek said.

Galvanek said her big-picture goal is to increase the number of visitors to the farmers market from the current 200-300 people per week to 600.

To achieve this goal, Galvanek intends to build a more active social media presence for the market, reach out to area farmers to see if they're interested in selling their produce at the market, and organize events and attractions such as live music, kids days and other "wholesome entertainment." 

With the market turning 40 this year, Galvanek said she has been thinking about a birthday celebration event for the market, as well. Details regarding this event still have to be ironed out.

Cadillac News