Shoppers at Royal Oak Farmers Market, 1999.
Royal Oak Farmers Market
What began as a community farmers market in 1925 to
serve the produce needs of a growing town has become a city
institution, reflective of the development and heritage of Royal
Oak, Michigan. Royal Oak was incorporated as a village in 1891. It
became a city in 1921 with a population of 6,000. By 1930, the
population had grown to 23,000. The city's location just outside
Detroit helped spur its growth, especially when train tracks were
laid in 1934 for the Grand Trunk Railroad. The market, which is
located a few blocks from Detroit's main thoroughfares: Woodward
Avenue, I-696 and I-75, serves three counties.
During the '30s, Michigan was a major truck garden
state. So much rhubarb was shipped through the city that Royal Oak
was once considered the Rhubarb Capital of the world. Noting the
need for fresh produce for the growing community, the city of Royal
Oak and Oakland County jointly decided to rent the corner of Fourth
and Troy streets, to establish a municipal open-air farmers or
community market in 1925. The early market drew farmers from 25 to
30 miles. Potatoes, apples, cabbage, carrots, onions, farm fresh
butter, and poultry were among items sold.
In 1927, a permanent brick building, 12-feet high
with 23,000 square feet was constructed to enclose the farmers
market. The roof was made with cement tile, with two rows of
lights, and the floor was concrete to allow cars to drive in for
unloading. On its first day of business, more than 300 consumers
purchased from 75 producers. Some family members from the original
producer vendors still sell at the market.
Since its inception, the market has maintained a
strict "farmer must grow" rule. In 1941, rabbit, farm fresh butter,
and buttermilk were among the items farmers sold. During World War
II, meat, dairy products and butter were rationed. The grounds of
the community market were used for Home Guard volunteer practices
and Boy Scouts drum-and-bugle corps drills. Over the years, the
building has been used for square dances, Halloween parties, public
meetings, craft shows, to store fire trucks when a fire station was
being built, and one couple who met at the market was married there
By 1950, the market had 110 farmer vendors. In 1960,
the community market's name was officially changed to Royal Oak
Farmers Market. When redevelopment threatened the market's
existence in 1996, demonstrators protested the proposed sale of the
market. The city, which owned 40 percent of the market, purchased
the remaining 60 percent from the county. The popular regional
Sunday flea market, which began in 1978 to supplement the market's
income, has grown to 90 vendors. Along with war relics,
depression-era figurines and glassware, vendors sell antiques,
handicrafts and collectibles. The Royal Oak Farmers Market has
developed a remarkable stable vendor base that has attracted
regular consumers who continue to come for locally grown
Project documentation includes a report with a
history of the area and the market, newspaper clippings, public
documents, photographs, and miscellaneous material.
Originally submitted by: Carl Levin, Senator.
The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.