By Christy Strawser
CBS Detroit Managing Editor
HIGHLAND PARK (CBS Detroit) Think farmers’ markets belong either way out in the country or as the purview of Oakland County hipsters and soccer moms?
Financially troubled inner-ring suburb Highland Park is kicking off its first farmers’ market on August 18 and keeping it open 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Saturday until October 27 in the Highland Park School Administrative Building Parking lot.
The goal is: “providing an opportunity for the residents of Highland Park and surrounding communities to have access to healthy, affordable, and fresh food, while also supporting the entrepreneurial endeavors of local farmers, gardeners and other food producers.”
But that’s not all, Market Director Scott Meloeny is hoping the market reaches all the way to facilitating an economic turnaround by “creating a destination within the city of Highland Park for money to be spent and invested as well as igniting a local food system that generates food independence for the residents of Highland Park.”
To attract visitors, the market is hosting the “Crusades for America March” August 25th, which will feature notable speakers including Rev. David Alexander Bullock.
“Highland Park is an ideal position to once again position itself as a pioneer in constructing resilient economies. As the home of the automobile, first highways and the assembly line, Highland Park contains the opportunities to build another unique city framework, a local economy based on decentralized food and energy systems,” Meloeny said.
He added: “This Farmers Market signals the start of something much bigger, as there are many dedicated farms and farmers who are creating their own response to unhealthy, inaccessible foods. The HP Market seeks to ignite an independent movement within the city that displays the creativity, skills and commitment that the residents have to the city of Highland Park.”
With the start of a simple farm market, Meloeny thinks a movement can be spurred to “tell a new story” about Highland Park, a Detroit neighbor that faces a multi-million deficit, while the school district is under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager.
The goal is to hire a full-time market director at $10 to $20 an hour, which Meloeny said will be paid for through fundraising and partnerships with Eastern Market and Next Generation Community Organizers.
“Make no mistake, the 2012 market is a bootstrap, grassroots effort to provide a positive, healthy destination for HP residents and surrounding communities,” Meloeny said.
The market has a 60-mile radius for its vendors and in addition to fresh food will exhibit Highland Park vendors who create and sell artisan works, including art, soaps and other products. They’ve recruited every one of Highland Park’s gardens and farms, including Rhiza Food Co., Highland Park’s first for-profit, year-round organic farm to provide fruit and vegetables. They’ve also partnered with the Michigan Coalition of Black Farmers, who are sending five Highland Park/Detroit-based farmers to the Market.
“Staying consistent with the larger vision of creating a local economy, we are proud to offer produce and other goods crafted by the artful hands of HP residents to all individuals ready to become an participatory actor of Highland Park’s new story,” Meloeny said.