March 2018, Webster Farmers Market
Each Sunday from 12-3 (except the 3rd of each month) you can find us at the Webster Farmers Market, held at the Crossroads Community Center, on 5501 Webster Church Rd in Dexter. As the founder of this market, I thought I would take a little time to tell you the story of how it began and why it so important to me.
The Webster Farmers Market officially started on December 10th, 2017, but began as a little tinkering of an idea a few months earlier in mid-September. My brother-in-law Peter has been working as a Blacksmith in the historical Wheeler Blacksmith shop, which is part of the collection of historical buildings restored and cared for by the Webster Township Historical Society. As Peter spent time amidst this beautiful village which sits in the heart of Webster Township, he started to talk about how neat it would be to have a farmers market in this place. Working with the Historical Society, a market team formed (of myself, my sister Violet, and brother-in-law Nick) and a few months later the market began. As the market continues to grow and thrive, I continue to feel so grateful to be a part of this weekly community gathering in my home, Webster.
Our farm is just a stone's throw away from the Community Center, where the market takes place. My family has been a part of this small rural community since 1900 and for 5 generations the Whitneys have been ingrained in nearly every aspect of this special place. Most of the people who were a part of my childhood, can be found sitting in the pews of the Webster Church on Sunday mornings, or buried in the Cemetery outside the church, or else at home somewhere nearby, their place in the community taking shape in some other way. Webster has always been the kind of place where even if you don’t someone directly, you know about them and they know about you, and if you were to find yourself conversation, you could talk for a very long time about all the ways your families paths have crisscrossed in the past and present.
Webster Township, like many of rural townships surrounding Ann Arbor, is increasingly under development pressure. The population is growing, but the number of farmers and the amount of farmland is decreasing. The Webster Township that my grandfather knew is very different from the one where my father was raised, which is turn is different from what I know, and what our kids will come to know. Despite the good work of land preservation programs in this area, for sale signs and houses popping up out of nowhere is becoming the norm. In the past 6 six months we have watched 5 houses pop up across the field from us, transforming generations and generations of farmland to lawns and driveways. To say this trend is heartbreaking, is an understatement, but I have come to accept as best I am able, that by choosing to live and farm in place that is so beautifully rural and yet conveniently close to the city, I will continue to see this happen for my entire life.
Starting the Webster Farmers Market, for me, is in part a way to remind our community that Webster was once a place that revolved around the ebbs and flows of farming. It is up to everyone who lives here to decide what a being a part of a rural community means to them.
Having a weekly community event that is centered around food and farm goods, located in Webster’s own beautiful historical village, seems like a good place to start in celebrating and preserving our rural heritage. The Historical Society, the Webster Church, the Webster Corners Village, the Scadin Farm, and the Webster Fall Festival are pillars of Webster. They have brought people in Webster together for many, many generations.
Already in the short time the farmers market has been up and going, I have met dozens of neighbors for the first time. I have seen people multiple times that I usually only see once a year at the Webster Fall Festival. It is my hope that the farmers market continues to bring people together, to build community, and remind us all that Webster is special and beautiful rural place and if we want it to stay this way, we have to keep working on it.
It is not the new houses that make Webster a special place, it is the fields and woods, the barns and the schoolhouses, the creeks and winding dirt roads, the history, the stories and the people who tell them. Webster is full to the brim of elders who know this place like the back of their hand and if you live here, and don’t know them, you should try to get to know them. They, along with the oaks, the walnuts, the hickories, the barns, the farmsteads, and the prairies, are the heartbeat of this place.