- 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 ( https://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.

“We figured it’s a great addition to the Old West Side. (There’s) nothing like having a market right across the street from the condos. It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said.

Argus Farm Stop adds to an influx of activity occurring on West Liberty Street. Along with De Parry’s condominium project, the former Moveable Feast building is being renovated for a tech company and rentable office spaces, and a locally owned ice cream shop is preparing to open.

Brinkerhoff said they liked the location on West Liberty Street because the west side of Ann Arbor is highly populated with people who are passionate about local food. The name Argus Farm Stop represents the former Argus Camera Company in the Old West Side, where Brinkerhoff’s father once worked.

Opening Argus Farm Stop is a career change for Brinkerhoff and Sample; the couple wanted to take on a venture together now that their kids are older, and they’ve always had a passion for local food.

“A big part of our family is the importance of food and local food.whenever we travel we go to farmers markets,” Brinkerhoff said.

Argus Farm Stop will have about 30 producers represented in the market. There will be produce, dairy products, meats, grocery items and artisanal foods. The store will have a refrigerated and frozen section.

The market will also have a cafe with a local coffee roaster. The specific coffee shop tenant has not yet been determined.

There will be a roll-up garage door and some display stands will spill out into the parking lot when the weather is warm. There will be seating and plants to create an environment where people want to hang out.

“We’re hoping it’s really lush with lots of plants and picnic tables, and really an attractive place for both the consumer and for the farmers to come and drop off their stuff and hang out and chat with us,” Sample said.

Argus Farm Stop will be located about a half mile from the Ann Arbor Farmers Market in Kerrytown. Sarah Dewitt, manager of the Ann Arbor Farmers Market, said Argus Farm Stop will complement the farmers market since it will be open daily.

“I see it as being a complementary effort to what we do at the farmers market. I really believe my job and our role here at the market is to support our vendors and to support local farms in having outlets to make a living selling produce to our community,” Dewitt said.

She added: “It also offers our vendors an outlet for sales that doesn’t necessarily require them to be there all day. They have to spend some time on the farm. It’s another way for them to continue to make revenue.”

The goal is to open Argus Farm Stop in August once building renovations are completed.


Information from: The Ann Arbor News, https://www.mlive.com/ann-arbor



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