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Thursday April 24, 2014
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Everyone seems happy with its present location. This year, the market has a new manager, Ashley Miller Helmholdt, a savvy young urban planner whose salary is paid by the Chelsea Area Wellness Foundation, a multifaceted organization whose grand mission is to fix the area's health by integrating medical services, fitness, and nutrition. One of her jobs is to make sure the farmers market isn't just a Saturday fun fair for wealthy food snobs--among other things, she makes it easy to trade Bridge Card dollars for double their value in fresh produce. She also runs the Wednesday market at Chelsea Community Hospital.

Stech, from Merkel Gardens (wife Margaret is a distant cousin to the owners of the nearby Merkel Furniture store), explains the annual cycle that a lot of farmers follow, including him and Kevin Heim, the second-generation farmer at the next stall. He starts with asparagus and bedding plants, "then by June or July we're picking" vegetables, which lasts for several months, then on to winter evergreens. "Then we rest in January and February" before cranking up the greenhouse in March. Stech grows "everything but corn" and lately has been specializing in Asian veggies like bitter melon and bok choy.

In May, Michigan's climate still doesn't offer much that's ripe, so farmers without greenhouses often skip this early season. This leaves vacancies for more prepared foods and crafts. Chelsea's market in late May had soap, gluten-free pastries, hummus, coffee, and knit goods.

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