Gaylord – For 57 of the 58 years Joe and Connie Rash were married, Gaylord played a vital role in their lives.
Every week (sometimes twice a week), the Rashes drive 90 minutes each way from their farm in Pincanning to the Gaylord Farmers Market. When the market closed for the season in October, Joe and Connie decided to pull out.
“I’m 84 years old and I think it’s time,” Joe said.
Since 1965, the couple has sold asparagus, tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, greens, beans, cabbage, cantaloupe and everything else grown on their 50-acre farm to market customers.
“We started selling tomatoes in Bay City for 10 cents a quart,” Joe recalls. “One guy came in and said, ‘That’s too much,’ and another guy said if I went to Gaylord I’d get a quarter. So I said that’s what I’ll do.”
Initially, a round trip to Gaylord cost Joe and Connie about $5.50 in gas. The Rashes are full-time farmers and live off their farm in part through the farmers market in Gaylord.
“Almost everyone had a garden back then so it was hard to sell locally,” says Joe. “Now, most are gone and very few have a garden today.”
Joe said it was in the stockyards on Old 27 when the pair first started coming to market. The Rashes have sold their products in other markets in northern Michigan, but keep coming back to Gaylord for one reason.
“It’s because of all the friends we’ve made, both customers and other vendors, that bring us back to Gaylord year after year,” Coney said. “I’m going to miss them all. (Gaillard) was like a second home to us.
“When we first started our kids went to the market with us,” added Connie. “All five children worked on the farm and came here to market, and so did the grandchildren.”
Connie and Joe hope to visit Gaylord every summer.
“We like to visit our customers and friends. I think Gaylord is a wonderful town,” added Connie.
In the 57 years the Hives have been coming to Gaylord, they’ve seen how the community has grown.
“It’s especially grown out west,” Joe said.
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Joe believes that even with the growth, Gaylord has managed to keep its small-town charm.
“I love the Alpine Festival (Alpenfest) in the summer,” he said.
In 2016, Rashes honored then-Gaillard Mayor John Jenkins for his longest-running sale at the market.
– Contact reporter Paul Welitzkin at [email protected]