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Interest in farmers markets has grown, area organizers say

File photo The Marshall Farmers Market will be coming back for the season starting July 3. Held Saturday mornings near the Marshall Area YMCA, the market has featured a variety of locally-produced foods, handcrafted goods, and fresh produce.

MARSHALL — The growing season is here, and in communities around southwest Minnesota, local farmers markets are gearing up for customers.

“This year we’re starting a week early,” said Dan Wambeke, one of the vendors at the Marshall Farmers Market. The Marshall market starts July 3, and markets in Canby and Minneota are starting up July 6 and July 22, respectively. In Granite Falls, the farmers market has already been running for a couple of weeks, vendors and organizers said.

While farmers markets are a source of fresh produce and other foods, organizers and vendors say they’ve also become a place where community members gather.

“It’s been really great. It gives people in the community a chance to sell their stuff,” whether it’s homemade jam, fresh eggs or honey, said Canby Farmers Market organizer Amanda Berckes. Over the past couple of years, she said, “The community response has been really good too.”

Markets in the Marshall area have grown over the years with a variety of food and craft vendors, as well as entertainment like music and kids’ activities. They’re also places where public health advocates are trying to take down the barriers to eating healthy foods.

“We are very excited to get things started,” said Kim Guenther, coordinator of the Marshall Farmers Market. With a variety of vendors, performances and foods lined up, the 2021 season was shaping up to be a good one, she said. “It is definitely the place to be on a Saturday morning in Marshall.”

“As we’ve gotten more vendors, people have gotten more variety,” Wambeke said. The Marshall farmers market includes vendors selling not only vegetables and fruit, but baked goods, jams, locally-raised meats, and crafts, he said. Wambeke has been part of the market for years, selling locally-produced maple syrup.

Interest in local farmers markets has grown over the years, area vendors and organizers said. Dave Haroldson said he went from being one of three vendors at the Granite Falls Farmers Market 15 years ago, to seeing somewhere around 15 vendors at the market each week.

“I think people like all the freshness of everything,” Harsoldson said.

Local markets have also grown by adding variety and events to enjoy. In Marshall, musical performances will start at the farmers market on July 10. Organizers of the Minneota Farmer’s Market announced on Facebook that they are looking to expand this year with music and events like group fundraisers.

Berckes said having kettle corn or cotton candy vendors at the Canby Farmers Market helps make it a family attraction, as does the market’s location in Central Park.

“It’s just kind of a fun gathering for people,” she said.

Haroldson said the Granite Falls market in Sorlien Park had a similar atmosphere. “It’s a great place to sit and converse,” he said.

One development that’s grown over the years in Marshall and other community farmers markets is a the variety of programs to help residents get fresh fruits and vegetables. Some vendors at the Marshall farmers market accept EBT for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) users, as well as Market Bucks to help match SNAP dollars. One program, the Power of Produce (POP) Club is aimed at kids and seniors. Children ages 3 to 13 are eligible for $2 tokens for their choice of a fruit or vegetable from the market. People age 60 or older can register to receive $4 tokens.

In Canby and Granite Falls, Countryside Public Health has a program called Tokens For Tomatoes. Established in 2018, the TFT program gives out $2 tokens at organizations and community events which can be used to buy fresh produce at participating farmers markets. The program reaches markets in Big Stone, Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Swift and Yellow Medicine Counties.

At the Canby Farmers Market, “We just started accepting SNAP benefits last year,” Berckes said. She said it’s not only a good deal for area residents, but it’s helping the farmers market grow its customer base.

Some of the benefits of local farmers markets is that they help connect area producers with customers, and draw people to town, participants said. Wambeke said the Marshall Farmers Market draws local residents, but “A lot of visitors in town will stop by” as well.

“For the size of town Marshall is, we have a very strong market. It’s definitely something we can be proud of,” Wambeke said.

Wambeke said the Marshall farmers market is looking for volunteers to help run the market’s information booth this summer. Volunteers can contact Market@marshallareaymca.org for details and open dates.

Area farmers markets

Canby

When: Thursdays from 4-6 p.m., from July 8 through Oct. 7.

Where: Central Park

Granite Falls

When: Wednesdays from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

Where: Sorlien Park, downtown Granite Falls

Marshall

When: Saturdays from 7:30-noon, from July 3 through Oct. 30.

Where: Parking lot between Schwan’s and the Marshall YMCA, 200 South A Street.

Minneota

When: Thursdays from 5-7 p.m., from July 22 until fall.

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