- Associated Press - Monday, April 28, 2014

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) - Husband and wife Bill Brinkerhoff and Kathy Sample have a mission: to help grow the Ann Arbor’s local food ecosystem.

Inspired by a similar concept in Wooster, Ohio, Brinkerhoff and Sample, along with Scott Fleck, have signed a lease to open a year-round farm market at a former gas station site on the west edge of downtown Ann Arbor, according to The Ann Arbor News ( http://bit.ly/1mdDn8n ).

They plan to open the Argus Farm Stop in August.

“It’s an everyday farmers market where farmers don’t have to be there and there is a single point of checkout,” Brinkerhoff said.

“There are a lot of people who want to prioritize locally and invest their food dollars in local producers and know exactly where their food is coming from. That segment of the population is really what we’re focusing on,” he added.

It’s a concept that Brinkerhoff, Sample and Fleck feel passionately about; supporting local food producers helps drive the economy and there is a growing interest in connecting producers directly with consumers.

The number of farmers markets in the country has grown from 5,000 in 2008, to 8,144 in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Michigan had 331 farmers markets in 2013.

Ann Arbor’s Argus Farm Stop is a slightly different model; the market would have employees, including Ann Arbor residents Brinkerhoff and Sample, and farmers would drop off their products about once a week. Each producer would have a designated area within the shop, with signage and information.

There would be a single point of checkout, so farmers don’t need to be present at the market to sell products. Argus will pay producers twice per month at a rate of 80 percent of the sales revenue for products.

“Our social mission and our interest is to provide an attractive outlet for producers where they can keep more of that margin,” Brinkerhoff said.

Fleck added: “We’re going to do some signage, with a bio of the farmer and where the product comes from. That’s how we bridge that connection between the producer and the buyer.”

Once a gas station and most recently a medical marijuana dispensary, the 1,300-square-foot building is in need of repairs before Argus Farm Stop’s slated opening in August.

Local developer Alex de Parry purchased the site in fall 2013, and has been cleaning out the building before he turns it over to Argus Farm Stop. The architect for the market is Cornerstone Design’s Richard Henes.

The property is on the western edge of Ann Arbor’s Downtown Development Authority’s boundaries, and it has a D2 zoning designation.

“It’s an everyday farmers market where farmers don’t have to be there and there is a single point of checkout. “De Parry said he received various inquiries from people interested in the property. He liked the idea of Argus Farm Stop, because he said it would complement the seven-unit condominium project he plans to build across the street.

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