GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — For generations of Grand Rapidians, the Fulton Street Farmers Market has been a staple of Saturdays.

2022 marks 100 years for the market.

“I don’t know what else to do on a Saturday. I’ve always been on the market,” John Platte said.

Platte’s family has been a vendor at the Fulton Street Farmers Market since 1965. Come early May, you’ll still find him setting up shop under the market’s pavilion in the Midtown neighborhood.

“Father Time’s kind of caught up with me. I’ve had to slow down quite a bit. We grow a little bit of stuff. I’m getting into bees more,” Platte said.

“We’re incredibly fortunate here to have a lot of old-school vendors that have been with us for generations,” Fulton Street Farmers Market Executive Director Dana Eardley said. “We really attribute our success to such a supportive community.”

The tradition of the market started during World War I, when a handful of prominent women, including Michigan’s first female state legislator Eva McCall Hamilton, pushed for the city to set up farmers markets. By the late 1920s, three of them were attracting well over a million customers each year.

The little brick building that now houses the Midtown Neighborhood Association on Fulton Street is the only thing that remains from the boom period of a century ago. Still, the market has been thriving, with a steady community of vendors and the addition of a pavilion 10 years ago that allows for year-round business.

Platte, who has played witness to generations of customers and watched the family dynamic change through the years, sees some of the past coming back around.

“I’ve noticed we’ve had a lot of young families showing up lately with little kids and that’s the future of the market,” Platte said.

The market also provides a place for customers to come face-to-face with the people who grow and make their food. It’s a place to turn for answers about their own home gardens.

Eardley said the market draws visitors from beyond its Midtown neighborhood home.

“We see a lot of traffic from all over the state. We’re very lucky to have vendors who come all the way from McBain (near Cadillac), all the way from south Michigan. Customers follow suit as well,” she said.

Just like Eva McCall Hamilton a century ago, the market continues to advocate and work toward food security in the community, including taking on the Gleaning Initiative this year.

“Our volunteers will come at the end of the market day and recover any food that is going to be composted or thrown away and we’re going to redistribute it in the Heartside Neighborhood,” Eardley explained.