GAYLORD — For 57 of the 58 years that Joe and Connie Rash have been married, Gaylord has occupied a pivotal role in their lives.
Every week (sometimes twice a week), the Rashes have been making the 90-minute drive each way from their farm in Pinconning to the Gaylord Farmers Market. When the market closed for the season in October, Joe and Connie decided to step away.
“I’m 84 years old and I think it’s time,” said Joe.
Since 1965, the couple has sold asparagus, tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, greens, beans, cabbage, melons and just about everything else grown on their 50-acre farm to the customers of the market.
“We got started in Bay City selling tomatoes for 10 cents a quart,” Joe recalled. “I had one guy come in who said ‘That’s too much’ and another guy who told me that if I went up to Gaylord I could get a quarter a quart. So I said that is what I will do.”
In the beginning, a round trip to Gaylord would cost Joe and Connie about $5.50 in gas. The Rashes have been full-time farmers and have made a living off their farm in part through the farmers market in Gaylord.
“It was hard to sell locally because just about everyone had a garden back then,” Joe said. “Now, most of them have gone and today very few have a garden.”
When the couple first started coming to the market it was located in the stockyards on Old 27, Joe said. The Rashes have sold their produce at other markets in Northern Michigan but kept coming back to Gaylord for one reason.
“It’s because of all the friends we’ve made, both customers and other vendors, that brought us back to Gaylord year after year,” said Connie. “I will miss them all. (Gaylord) has been like a second home for us.
“Our kids went to the market with us when we first started,” Connie added. “All five kids worked the farm and came here to the market and the grandkids, too.”
Connie and Joe intend to visit Gaylord every summer.
“We want to visit our customers and friends. I think Gaylord is a fantastic town,” added Connie.
In the 57 years the Rashes have been coming to Gaylord they have noticed how the community has grown.
“It grew particularly to the west,” Joe said.
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Even with the growth, Joe believes that Gaylord has managed to keep its small-town charm.
“I like the Alpine festival (Alpenfest) in the summer,” he said.
The Rashes were honored by then Gaylord Mayor John Jenkins in 2016 for being a long-time vendor at the market.
— Contact reporter Paul Welitzkin at firstname.lastname@example.org.