Haymaker Farmers’ Market “stands out” in downtown Kent

Carly Zimmerman, farm manager at Crown Point Ecology Center, organizes a small basket of peppers at the Haymaker Farmers Market on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021.

 Coffee, gourds, kettle corn, and more. 

The Haymaker Farmers Market, now in its 29th year, has been a staple in downtown Kent, and in recent years, this success has much to do with market manager Andrew Rome. 

“My job is really to work out all the details of coordination between our different vendors to make sure that the market runs smoothly, but it’s all of our vendors who are doing the work of producing foods to bring to the market,” said Rome.

Rome has been administering the market for the past 5 or 6 years, and every Saturday, rain or shine, he hosts up to 60 vendors under the Haymaker Parkway Bridge. 

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., market-goers can browse tents full of local honey, kettle corn, sugar cookies, bagels and other produce. depending on what’s available.

“We go to a lot of trouble to make sure that we’ve built trust between our vendors and customers so we can be a producer-only market,” Rome said.

This means all of the local producers make, bake, brew and create their products by hand. 

Rome is also in charge of the vendor application process, and his requirements allow for high quality products with a wide variety of options.

To ensure this even further, Rome checks in on each business periodically to get a tour of their production.

Each week, a different local band performs, as well. They go through a similar process as the vendors, and Rome is appreciative of their contributions to the market. 

“I’m looking to schedule a diverse music lineup for the year,” Rome said. “That’s musical diversity, racial diversity, diversity of ages, styles, performances. So we want high-quality, diverse music performances at the market that’s going to appeal to everybody.” 

The autumn musician line-up boasts performances by Summer Knights, One String Short, Sam Curfin and more. 

During winter months, Rome hopes to continue the market, and the music, indoors at United Methodist Church in downtown Kent.

Like last year, the winter market will take place from December through March until outdoor weather becomes feasible. 

In fact, Rome said the start of the pandemic was the biggest success for the market, with some 30,000 members in attendance. 

Now, in 2021, the market continues to grow– literally– with plans to bring a mini-market to the Kent campus on Sept. 21 and Oct. 12. 

“We’ve always looked for ways to better connect with students, faculty, and staff on campus…” he said. 

The market is more than just food and music, though. 

According to Rome, his organization coincides with food access programs,  as well as the power of produce program to teach kids about agriculture. 

One of these programs, Kent State’s campus kitchen, allows volunteers to package “recovered food” for distribution to those who need it in the Kent area and beyond. 

“So much of what we do, it’s not the market specifically, but the market coordinating, the work of other community organizations or businesses, to have the market be sort of a central hub for local food and agriculture in Portage County.”

Rome is a proud proponent of community togetherness, and in running the farmers market, he demonstrates this value even further.

“The Haymaker Farmers Market does a lot to coordinate and add to the vibrant downtown atmosphere where people are going there to shop at a number of different businesses and hang out and see their friends and seek community, listen to local music and eat something that was made locally,” he said.

Check out http://www.haymakermarket.com/ for more details on vendors, live music, and other important information. 

Morgan McGrath is a feature writer. Contact her at [email protected]