A poetic close to the farmers’ market

MIKE ATHEY
It’s almost 10:30 on the morning of Saturday Oct. 10 and Glen Hartle is busy placing patio chairs in the shade of a giant tree beside a chess board whose pieces are the size of kindergarteners.
The tree sits in front of a long lane. At one end is a row of parked cars, at the other is a series of barns, farm houses and a greenhouse. Lining this dirt road are local vendors who have come to the closing day of the local farmer’s market to sell their wares one last time.
It’s an active farm with several medium-sized tan horses munching on hay within their paddock on the opposite side of the road. They don’t pay much attention to the ongoings of the humans who are milling about nearby.
Hartle finishes his preparations and a few women slowly make their way over to the chairs. Mary McDowell Wood, a woman sporting a purple jacket and knit pink sunhat, settles into a chair. A ladybug lands on the book she is holding; ladybugs are landing on everyone and everything in the vicinity of the tree.
Ron Hodgins, a tall commanding man wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans, steps out of the greenhouse and makes his way down the lane. He outstretches his arms and beckons people towards the tree. They take note and follow to make a circle around the chairs, which is revealing itself to be more of a makeshift stage.

Ron Hodgins finishes a sale of produce within his greenhouse. Hodgins volunteered to host the farmers’ market on his property this season.

Hodgins addresses the crowd and thanks them for coming over the last few months. COVID-19 may have shut down the Pontiac Farmers Market, but that wasn’t going to stop Hodgins. He instead had invited the vendors to continue selling on his land at R&R Farms.
“We created a farmer’s market at a farm. Go figure,” he said. The crowd laughed.
“Where the market will be next year?” said Hodgins as he finished off, “If you want it, it’ll be here.”
Clapping ensued, and Hodgins signalled to Hartle and invited him to begin what would be the final poetry reading of the season.
Hartle stepped forward and read a poem he’d written called Epilogue, a bookend to the event he helped start. According to Hodgins, Hartle had come to the market one day and began to read poetry. Soon others had begun to join in and it had become a staple of the 2020 market.
Following Hartle, several others stood up and read poems one by one. Venetia Crawford, Carole Valin, Michael Machan, and Virginia Woods all read a piece while the ladybugs continued their gentle visitations.
Second to last was Mary McDowell Wood. She had brought a book she’d written called Paper Trail. Inside she read three poems and filled the space in-between with tales of their origin, many of them revolving around her late husband.
The poetry reading wrapped up, but the memories would live on in written form. Nestled on a wooden shelf under the big tree were copies of The 2020 Pontiac Farmers Market Poetry at 10:30. The book had been written by many of the poets who had just read. It was selling for $20 and copies were disappearing quickly.
The poetry reading came to a close, vendors returned to their tables. Hodgins went back to the greenhouse to sell assorted vegetables to visitors while guiding them in the purchases. He even sold things he didn’t expect to, as one patron was quite taken by a potted display of peacock feathers that wasn’t intended for sale. Despite Hodgins’ insistence it was “clutter”, it was whisked away from the greenhouse to what would be its new home.
Hodgins said that when they moved the farmer’s market to the farm it had started with four vendors but it had picked up steadily to a peak of 17 in July.
Inger Elliott, owner of The Dutch Oven bakery was one of the vendors. She’d been there since the beginning, selling cakes, pies, breads and assorted other baked goods.
Elliott had been coming to markets for 13 years and said she liked “the ambiance. It’s a great spot. It’s beautiful.”
Kari Munn-Venn of the Phoenix Fibre Arts Studio was selling yarn from her table. She remarked that it isn’t always the easiest to sell yarn during the summer, but community support has been wonderful. She also had a secret weapon as she’d begun a small farm and had eggs she could sell at the market.
“Yarn, hand knit jewelry and eggs,” said Munn-Venn. “Because what good yarn shop doesn’t have eggs.”
She had recently moved to the area and started selling at the market in July. She enjoyed the sense of community.
As the market began to finally wind down, Hodgins repeated his interest in hosting the market at the farm in 2021.
“Pretty hard to say no,” he said. “It’s been our most successful season ever.”

Venetia Crawford reads a poem she wrote from the new poetry book.

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