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WHY WINE? Farmers' Markets Prove Boon to Small Michigan Wineries

July 6, 2015       Leave a Comment
By: MyBayCity Staff

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Small Michigan wineries are finding farm markets a new, and profitable, venue for sales.

In 2013, Public Act 100 was signed by Governor Rick Snyder, which allows the Michigan Liquor Control Commission to issue a special permit to small wine makers providing them the opportunity to offer samples and sell wine at Michigan farmers markets.

In 2014, over 20 wineries were approved to offer wine for sampling and sale at farmers markets adding a unique and attractive element to the vast array of local farm products vendors sell at market.

"Farmers markets are an excellent opportunity for smaller wineries to get their products in front of potential customers and build their brands," said Linda Jones, Executive Director of the Michigan Grape and Wine Industry Council.

Farmers market managers and wine makers from across the state have reported positive responses to the availability of local wines at their markets.

Randy and Lisa St. Charles, owners of the St. Charles Brewhaus and Winery who sold wine in 2014 at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market in Marquette, MI reported record-breaking sales since becoming vendors at the farmers market and the passing of Public Act 100.

"We opened our doors in October of 2013 and had a hard time getting things off the ground. We were concerned we would have to shut down after a tough time with fall and winter sales, but in the spring of 2014 we became vendors at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market and have had record-breaking sales ever since. Public Act 100 and the farmers market saved our business," explains Randy St. Charles.

The St. Charles Brewhaus and Winery went from doing 6-gallon batches of wine to 36-gallons shortly after they became vendors at the market. They are finding that 36-gallons still isn't enough for the demand. In 2014, about 45 percent of their wine sales took place at the farmers market.

"The Downtown Marquette Farmers Market has helped us grow and also start selling at grocery stores in the area. It also provided us with the opportunity to make relationships with local farmers both in the Upper Peninsula and Lower Michigan who we are in the process of working with to purchase produce to make our wine," explains Lisa St. Charles.

Randy and Lisa are known for making wines that are unique in comparison to other wines you might find elsewhere. They are in the process of purchasing jalapenos from Seeds and Spores Family Farm, who also vend at the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, which is just one example of the many relationships they've made with local farmers. The wine containing jalapenos would be called 'Sauna Heat', which would accompany other popular wines they sell such as; Yooper Tropics, Maddie Paws and Blackberry Ore, to name a few.

Myra Zyburt, Manager of the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market has nothing but positive things to say about the passing of Public Act 100 and its affect on the farmers market. "Having St. Charles Brewhaus and Winery at the market has been a wonderful and vibrant addition. It allows those shopping at the market the opportunity to experience through taste. Many shoppers enjoy having a diversity of products available, which adds to their overall experience of the market and in turn, benefits everyone."

In addition to the Downtown Marquette Farmers Market, the following members of the Michigan Farmers Market Association (MIFMA) also added wine sales and sampling to their markets in 2014: Fenton Farmers Market, Texas Township Farmers Market, Fulton Street Farmers Market, Lake Leelenau Farmers Market, Sara Hardy Farmers Market, Vantage Point Farmers Market, Northville Farmers Market and Downtown Gaylord Farmers Market.

"As author of this new law, I'm confident that this tool will continue to give greater market access to aspiring entrepreneurs by allowing them to conduct wine tastings and sell their product as many of our fine farmers markets throughout this great state," said Sen. Geoff Hansen, R-Hart. "Public Act 100 is simply another tool to help Michigan small businesses promote their products to help them build a foundation for a longer, profitable wine industry."

This article was written by Samantha Collins, Communications & Events Manager for the Michigan Farmers Market Association.

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