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Why Supporting Our Local Farmers Market is Vital for Our Community

When was the last time you’ve visited your local Farmers Market? I found myself in Bachman’s just a few months ago. My two-year-old was attempting to dance by bouncing his little knees off-beat to a great local country band while eating his very first Momo from a local vendor. We came home with locally grown tomatoes, beef from a cow who was raised in a small farm’s pasture, and a heap of questions about farms and farmers markets.

 



This year, our local Farmers Market turns 10 years old, so I spoke with Mara Wack, a woman who helps organize the Bachman’s Winter Markets which turns into three separate markets in the summer: Nokomis, Fulton, and Kingfield farmers markets. She spoke about the history of our local farmers markets, and the markets' potential as hubs for supporting local businesses, addressing food insecurity, fostering community, helping farmers, and giving people fresh quality

food.


Kingfield farmers market was created by the Kingfield Neighborhood Association. It was so successful, other neighborhood associations reached out to learn how to create their own. This spurred the beginning of a nonprofit named ‘Neighborhood Roots’ which created more farmers markets. With over 20 farmers markets in Minneapolis, we tend to take them for granted, but many of us—me included -- don't realize how much work goes into making a farmers market successful. “Farmers markets don’t just happen.” Mara said, “There’s so much good work farmers markets can do, and I feel really good doing it.”



Vendor fees only make up 45% of Farmers Markets’ operating budget. They purposefully keep the fees low for accessibility. Mara noted that many businesses, such as Guava's Cuban Cafe and Northern Fires, began by selling in our farmers market. Due to the low entrance fee, Mara emphasized the importance of sponsorships. She named Nicollet Ace Hardware as one of the most significant contributors to Nokomis Farmers Market.

Farmers markets also fight food insecurity. “I see farmers markets being a really big solution to food insecurity issues," Mara said. As inflation increases, many items in a farmers market are comparable in price to items found at the local grocery store. They accept SNAP and Minnesota makes use of ‘Market Bucks’. Market bucks is a program that doubles every SNAP dollar for up to $10 per farmers market visit. In 2021, over $100 million in federal nutrition benefits were redeemed at farmers markets across the United States and with direct marketing farmers. 


Farmers markets also bring in a sense of community. The average person has only one

interaction at a grocery store, whereas at a farmers’ market, the average person has about five interactions. As many of us are looking for friendly faces in a post-covid era, it was nice to be able to meet the farmers who grew the various fruits and vegetables as well as neighbors who share the same interests in food, farms, and music.  

All of the farms at our Nokomis Farmers Market are within a 43 Mile radius of the market. Many of the fruits and vegetables sold at the market are picked the same morning they are sold. With smaller farms, farmers are able to guarantee the freshness and quality of their products. They are also able to keep the money that is given directly to them instead of using middlemen who take a portion of their profits. I was shocked when I read that on average,  farmers only keep about 7.8 cents per dollar consumers spend on food in the United States. By helping our local economy, we can ensure farmers are being paid a fair wage, because they are able to set their

own prices when they sell directly to consumers.



Mara has big dreams for our farmers markets including solar-powered markets and community kitchens. She remains committed to the positive impact farmers markets can have on local communities and vendors. Mara is also raising money to expand two current programs. The first is named ‘Power of Produce’ where every child can receive two dollars at each farmers market visit so they can try different fruits and vegetables. The second is called ‘Nourishing Neighbors’, which compensates farmers for excess produce and also brings the surplus produce to local food shelves.  


She expressed the need for the community to help sponsor, donate, volunteer, and most

importantly, shop at our local farmers market to help keep our healthy ecosystem alive. If you’re interested in volunteering or sponsoring, please go to their website.  I can’t believe how easy and fun it can be to shop locally and help our community. Nokomis Farmers Market opens June 12th and will be open every Wednesday from 4pm-8pm.Hopefully I’ll see you there to celebrate their ten year anniversary!

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