Nutrition interest leads to increase of area farmers marketsFreshness is the irresistible magnate for those who regularly flock to farmers markets, say customers and organizers alike. That, combined with people’s growing interest in the quality of foods they consume, has resulted in more farmers markets sprouting up in the region in recent years.
By: Pamela Knudson, Grand Forks Herald
Freshness is the irresistible magnate for those who regularly flock to farmers markets, say customers and organizers alike.
That, combined with people’s growing interest in the quality of foods they consume, has resulted in more farmers markets sprouting up in the region in recent years.
“People are getting more informed about their nutrition,” said Susan Bruggeman, vice president of the 16-member Crookston Farmers Market.
“You don’t realize how much nutritional value you lose when (vegetables and fruits) are riding on a truck.”
Food in the United States travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to the kitchen table, said Linda Kingery, executive director of the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, Crookston, in a news release.
This massive shipping enterprise costs the nation “large amounts of natural resources, especially fossil fuels, which contributes to pollution, and creates excess trash with extra packaging,” she said. “Much of this pollution could be reduced just by buying locally-grown food.”
By shopping at farmers markets, consumers are also supporting local producers and helping to revitalize rural economies, Kingery said.
Plus, the products are high quality and exceptionally fresh, which appeals to many who are searching for healthy options to feed themselves and their families, she said.
Knowing your food source
Another benefit: customers can talk face-to-face with the grower.
“You can talk to (the vendors) about how they grow their produce,” Bruggeman said. Our farmers are very up front.”
Customers are interested in growers’ use of chemicals, she said.
“We get all kind of people. Some are looking for true organics,” produce grown with no fertilizers, chemicals or pesticides.
“Most – I’d say 100 percent – of our members don’t use pesticides whatsoever,” she said. “Fertilizers are not bad, though, because most of them come from an organic source.”
Grand Forks market in 11th year
In Grand Forks, the Town Square Farmers Market has been steadily expanding since its first season in 2001.
The idea for the market was proposed as a way to entice new visitors and residents to downtown in late 1990s when the Grand Cities were working to recover from the devastating effects of the Flood of ‘97.
This summer, on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., the square fills with hundreds of people looking for fresh vegetables and fruits, eggs, meats, homemade jams and jellies, baked goods, handmade jewelry, flowers, arts and crafts, soap and other items.
Live music adds to the festive atmosphere and vendors serve food and cool drinks to ease the effects of summer heat. People sit and relax by the bandstand; kids climb on a play-set.
More than 60 vendors have set up shop at different times during the market season which runs from June to September.
Grand Forks’ Amazing Grains store will be at half of the market this year, said Betsy Perkins, selling produce, including beans, corn, peas and lettuce, from a community garden that is linked to the store.
‘Better than the store’
While the Crookston Farmers Market has been operating for about five years, “it gets bigger and better every year,” Bruggeman said. “There are more vendors, better vendors.”
Vendors sell an assortment of vegetables, fruits, baked goods, meat, jewelry, plants and flowers.
And sellers are price-conscious.
“We try to keep prices in line with the real world,” she said.
On a recent visit to the market, local residents Gordon and Maxine Pagnac were checking out vendors’ displays.
“We look and see what’s here,” Gordon said. “It’s much better than the store. It’s great… Today we bought onions and raspberries.
“And we heard that Bob Prudhomme has green beans for sale.”
Pat Grothe, who lives on Maple Lake, said, “People come and buy things they’ve never tried before, and we tell them how to make it. They come and tell us how it was.
“We have a lot of repeat customers.”
Mary Anderson of Minneapolis said she’d purchased onion, peas and lettuce.
“I sampled the peas and they were good,” she said.
She routinely buys at farmers markets because everything is “fresher, so much fresher,” she said, “and better looking and it tastes better.
“It isn’t that they’re cheaper than the stores, but they’re so much better.”
‘It’s all about relationships’
Strawberries grown by Gary Kircher from Garden Hills Farm, south of Fertile, Minn., are ever-popular, he said. “They’re as sweet as honey. A lot of people preorder.”
The grower, who also works as a high school counselor, said he enjoys chatting with people who come back to his stand every year.
“It’s all about relationships,” he said.
Josh LeClerc who operates a business, Vegi Up, selling produce from his rural Crookston home, said he used to live in Colorado where farmers markets abound.
“It’s exciting to see smaller communities kind of catch up” with the trend, said LeClerc who’s teaching younger members of his family how to get produce ready for the market.
The Crookston market, open from 4 to 7 p.m., Tuesdays and Fridays at Third Street and Ash, is operating for the first time in a downtown location.
The new location, seen as a boost for business, is more convenient for customers, who may have had trouble getting to the former site on the eastern edge of Crookston, according to Sandy Kegler, treasurer of the 16-member Crookston Farmers Market organization.
“We are grateful to Crookston Chamber of Commerce and the city council for making room in the green space,” said Bruggeman, noting that the group is “overjoyed” with the location.
Kegler believes that the growing popularity of farmers markets is linked to: growers who use no or less pesticides, the absence of a middle-man and society’s heightened health-consciousness.
“And, personally, I think the vegetables taste better,” she said, “because they haven’t sat a week in shipping.”
The market draws about seven or eight vendors from within a 35-mile radius. But the organization may accept a vendor outside that radius if the product is “something special,” Bruggeman said. “It’s just important that we stay local.”
“It’s ideal for people who live in the area,” she said. “The whole quality of the food is better. You get the ultimate nutritional value from it.”
For more on area farmers markets, go to:
www.MinnesotaGrown.com (click on “farmers markets” link)
Area farmers markets:
Thief River Falls
Reach Knudson at (701) 780-1107; (800) 477-6572, ext. 107; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.