Freer (Farmers) Markets in Detroit
Detroit’s Eastern Market, the largest open air farmers’ market in the US, was the clearest example of Detroit’s vibrant culture during my time in the Motor City. The market has over 150 businesses, and hosts around 45,000 people from all over the Detroit metro area. People of all colors, ages and backgrounds were swimming around in a pool of fresh baked desserts, speciality jams and butters, and using their businesses to bring the city of Detroit back from the brink. The examples of success I found in the market can provide a pathway to prosperity for the city as a whole, and create a better community through the creation of small businesses.
Upon entering the market, I spoke with Kyle, a booth representative for Mindo Chocolate Makers. She told me about the cocoa beans they purchase from family farms in Ecuador and ship up to Michigan. they are turned into decadent brownies, chocolate bars and other assorted goodies. Their chocolate contains only two ingredients: cocoa beans and organic evaporated cane juice. While the cane juice is organic, and the cocoa beans are raised in the proper conditions, the food does not carry the organic certification. I asked Kyle why, and she poignantly stated “It was more important to pay our farmers more money than pay for organic certification.”
Successful businesses doesn’t always entail a direct-profit scenario. They effectively use capital for a profit, and some times that doesn’t mean the next day or even in the form of money. It can come in the form of a superior product and better community. On The Rise Bakery is one such venture. The bakery is a prime example of mutual benefit to community and consumers. The bakery takes people who recently released from prison or have completed substance abuse treatment and teaches them to bake. By providing them a job and skills, they are not only creating a better life for themselves, but the community as well. Higher unemployment leads to more crime, and the city of Detroit can most certainly benefit from anything that decreases crime.
In Brooklyn, I have become fond of both McClure’s pickles and their Bloody Mary mix. I stopped by their booth and spoke with Mike, a Detroit native who moved back after living in my Brooklyn neighborhood. in Brooklyn. He said it was difficult to find consistent work in his fields of interest in New York saw both the opportunity at a great job and a chance to move back to Detroit. I was super exciting to see McClure’s at a low price, around $8 for a bottle of Bloody Mary mix. In New York, I typically find it for twice the price. He told me how frustrated he was by that, as the goal of McClure’s is to get the product into as many customer’s hands as possible. If prices are artificially high, whether that’s through government regulation or it’s impacts on costs of business, it reduces the growth of business by pricing out consumers.
When people are cooperating in the realm of business, there is a high incentive for treating each other well and focusing on mutual benefit. The best part of the Eastern Market is that it was one of the times I felt the most safe and at ease during my whole trip. Everyone was there without mandates or coercion for profit. The businesses I encountered were diverse and produced quality goods, all driven by the spirit of the people of Detroit. If the city of Detroit can find effective ways to encourage business development by lowering barriers to entry like licensing requirements and the state’s highest city income tax, it would be an example in smarter, smaller government that benefits the people of the Motor City.