Four neighborhood farmers markets form coalition

Midtown Public Market vendors shared a laugh last summer.

Photo by Chris Steller

BRIDGELAND—Four community farmers markets have teamed up this year to create the Community Farmers Markets of Minneapolis, a coalition helping the groups to survive after some of them broke from their major partners.

Midtown Public Market, Mill City Farmers Market, Northeast Farmers Market and Kingfield Farmers Market are forming the coalition to share new ideas and band together for marketing, much like local food co-ops.

The joint project is especially helpful for advertising, since it is easier to run ads for local markets listing all four options, said Midtown Public Market coordinator Joanna Stone. The coalition is hoping papers will run ads for free or with an agreement to sell the newspapers at the markets, she said.

The Midtown Public Market, located at Lake Street and 22nd Avenue South in the Corcoran neighborhood, is the largest of the four. It recently received a $25,000 Project for Public Spaces grant, one of only 12 markets across the country to receive money from the Project.

The Midtown market is open Saturday mornings beginning May 6, and Tuesday afternoons beginning July 11. It will also be a part of Local Thursdays at Midtown Global Market at the corner of Lake Street and Chicago Avenue. Both markets will use the grant money to buy machines that will accept EBT cards as payment.

EBT cards look much like credit cards, and the state uses them instead of the old food stamp system. The farmers markets also accept Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers, which are issued by the Women, Infants and Children program that focuses on providing proper nutrition to low-income families.

The Midtown markets are the first local farmers markets to accept EBT cards, and the machines will also accept credit cards, said Gerry Tyrrell, a Midtown Public Market co-founder and volunteer.

This is the first year in its four-year history that the market is not associated with the Central Minnesota Vegetable Growers Association, which also helps run the downtown and Nicollet Mall markets. The break was amicable and the market is doing well without the association since a network of vendors is already set up, Tyrrell said.

New this year is the Mill City Market, which will be at Second Street South and Chicago Avenue, near the new Guthrie Theater. The market will try to provide products that are local, organic and sustainable, said Market Manager Marjorie Hegstrom.

The market also hopes to provide a place for farmers to have an economically viable outlet for their products, including everything from fruits and vegetables to meat, berries and prepared foods, she said.

“Hopefully people will be able to get everything they need for the week (at the market),” Hegstrom said.

The Mill City Market is the brainchild of Brenda Langton, owner of Café Brenda and the new Spoon River restaurant. Langton had always thought it would be great for the neighborhood to have a farmers market, and thought that the site near the new restaurant would be perfect, Hegstrom said.

Community Farmers Markets of Minneapolis has been a great resource for the Mill City Market to get business ideas in its first year, Hegstrom said. She hopes the market will be a bigger contributor to the coalition once it has established itself.

In the future, Hegstrom said the market will have more of an educational component, teaching people about things like sustainable agriculture, nutrition and where food comes from. She also hopes to offer more entertainment and cooking demonstrations.

The Mill City Market will be open June 10–Oct. 21.

The smallest of the coalition’s markets is the Northeast Farmers Market.

“Before this year it was kind of a one-person show,” said Market Coordinator and Manager Rod Stevens, explaining that past market coordinators had to do a lot of work to get ready for the vendors. This year the neighborhood association is pitching in, and the market has more volunteers, he said.

The Northeast market is in the St. Boniface Church parking lot at Seventh and University avenues NE. This year the seasonal, open-air market is no longer with its main founding partner, the Eastside Food Co-op.

At first it was chaotic without the stability of having the co-op, but Stevens said the break has been a blessing in disguise.

“It’s coming together bit by bit,” he said, adding that working more with the neighborhood has been good and the co-op will still be involved in the market in smaller, informal ways.

last revised: August 9, 2006