INTRO: Flint used to mean factories. But it’s starting to mean farms. The city rivals Detroit in urban farming. It has also has a thriving farmer’s market that was almost torn down when GM started tearing down factories. Michigan Now’s Chris McCarus visited the 70 year old Flint Farmer’s Market. He spoke with manager Dick Ramsdell who’s older than the building.
DR: This is a fall Saturday at the market which is busy. It will be busy until football games in the afternoon. Even today here at the end of October we got music on the front lawn which creates a totally different atmosphere for the place. Last summer care2.com and localharvest.org sponsored a love your market contest. We were the most loved market in America in 2009. CNN did survey of best markets to visit if you’re out traveling around with your family. They picked us as #10 out of their top ten list. That’s not bad.
CMC: Dick Ramsdell when did you take over?
DR: I came on board here when Uptown Reinvestment took over the market in 2002. Our goal was to revitalize the place. Obviously the city then had major financial issues just as they do today. But one of the ways they were going to cut their budget costs in 2002 was to close the market. And Uptown had the foresight to say this is a treasure. This market, a market in Flint has existed since 1905.
CMC: How much was the city of Flint paying that they were trying to save?
DR: They were paying two city employees full salary and benefits and they were not collecting that much money in rent from the vendors. So it was losing venture. It’s a year round market so you’ve got heating costs and that kind of thing.
CMC: Dick Ramsdell you’re a former teacher. You spent many years teaching in Flint. How does this compare?
DR: You know it’s not a lot different. It’s working with people. When I taught the idea was that I wasn’t the teacher and I wasn’t going to tell the kids what to do. We’re all human beings. They happen to be younger than I was. We’re all in this thing called life together. So let’s see what we can figure out and make it better for us. That’s pretty much the philosophy here too. The vendors here are wonderful people. Some of these farmers, I can not believe how hard they work. I don’t know when they sleep. It’s a tough, tough job. But again, we’re in this together. We’re trying to make this place work the same way I would hope we would try to make any place work.
When we took over 8 years ago, some (other people in town) said tear the place down and put up a new market. We said no. No. That’s what people expect from a market that has a building is….they don’t want a brand new mall.