The Twin Cities is a great place to find a farmers’ market. They seem to be everywhere, and each seems to have its own character and set of devoted fans. The Kingfield Farmers Market, located in the Kingfield at 4310 Nicollet in Minneapolis, attracts loyal foodies from the neighborhoods around Southwest Minneapolis. At Kingfield, some of the most popular booths are those dedicated to selling unique foods available few other places.
The prices might be higher than at some other farmers’ markets, but the quality is top of the line. The folks running the booths are the people who have caught, raised, or produced the products they sell. Here are some examples.
Wild Run Salmon
At his Wild Run Salmon booth, Matt Oxford cooks up samples of two types of salmon to give out as samples. “The dark red salmon is the sockeye, the other is the keta,” he tells customers. He waves pieces of fresh fish under their noses. “Smell this fish,” he says. “It smells like the ocean. These grill up fantastically. They’re like sirloin steaks.”
Oxford has been an Alaska fisherman since 1989, after leaving St. Paul and a job in finance for a fishing life in Homer, Alaska to fish the Bering Sea in his boat, the Blue Ox. He jokes about Homer, a town made famous by the television series Deadliest Catch. “I turned down a reality show up there. There must be seven reality shows out of Homer right now.”
He greats customers like old friends—and some of them are. Sometimes, the conversation is not about the fish. He talks with one customer about the Exxon Valdez oil spill that happened in 1989, the year he began his commercial fishing operation. It took years for the salmon to recover, he said. “People up there are still waiting for payments, 25 years later.”
How to cook a salmon filet? Oxford knows and he tells. “Place it upside down [skin side up] on a hot pan for two minutes. Have the oven preheated to 450 degrees, flip it, then put it in the oven, shut off the oven and leave it for 12 minutes,” he says. He repeats the recipe for the next customer, keeping up friendly chatter and answering customers’ questions. He’s serious about his fish. “I caught it. I’m the guy selling it to you,” he said. “It’s got to be good.”
Braucher’s Sunshine Harvest Farm
There’s always a line of customers waiting at the Sunshine Harvest Farm booth, ready to buy pasture-raised and free-running beef, chickens, lamb, and eggs. The best sellers, says owner Mike Braucher, are the bacon and the eggs, and he makes sure to bring enough for his fans. One fan, Mark Buffington, says he comes to the booth every week. “This time I’m here to buy the cottage bacon. It’s great for BLTs,” he says.
Braucher has sold high quality meat and eggs at the Kingfield Markets for eight years. Before becoming a farmer, he drove a truck and then went back to school to become a structural engineer. He kept that day job until three years ago when he became a full time farmer. “Business is great,” he says. “We do year-round CSA—community supported agriculture—in addition to selling at farmers markets and to restaurants.”
Braucher’s son Brandon, who now works along side his father, says the family is committed to sustainable agriculture. The pastures where cows and lambs graze are free of pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. “We try to keep everything as natural as we can,” he says. “The chickens run around in the yard and are fed on non-GMO grains.”
Customer Francesca Davis is enthusiastic. “I come for the eggs,” she says. “I don’t eat much meat, but when I do I like to know that the animals live a real life. Sure, they are more expensive—you can get eggs at Rainbow for 79¢ and here, they’re $5.25—but it’s worth it.”
“They were telling me about how a weasel got into their chickens and killed some of them,” she says. “You could tell that they cared, not just about the financial loss, but they really care about their animals. These are the real farmers.”
Sunshine Harvest Farm’s booth also features specialty items like their lamb brats and lamb sausage, ham, kabobs and fajita strips.
Love Tree Farm
There aren’t a lot of cheese caves near St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, so Dave Falk built his own. Inside a hand-built concrete structure, buried under pastureland, is the perfect cave-to-age cheese. “It’s got a fresh air exchange under the hill,” Falk says. “That brings in the natural bacteria and pollen, which makes my cheeses regional.” He’s a full-time farmer with 10 cows, nine goats and the 120 sheep needed to meet the demand for his unique cheeses.
The best-selling cheeses at the Love Tree Farm booth (he brings a limited number to sell at the market) are the European style Holmes series, he says: young softer cheeses including Big Holmes Cheese, a soft cheese dipped in herbs, aged only a month to six weeks. It’s smooth and mild. The kicky Gin Berry cheese has a black pepper and juniper berry coating, is also a big seller.
Falk sells hunks of his cheeses for $10 and won’t cut them up in smaller pieces for customers: it’s easier that way, he says. But, he’s free with the samples. Ask and he might recommend a good wine to go with your cheese purchase.
Back on the farm, Falk and his wife Mary have popular pizza Sundays and also raise sheep dogs: working dogs that really herd sheep. Dogs are not allowed at the Kingfield Farmers Market, though, so you won’t see any of them there.
Other Fun Stuff
The Market is the place to go for many in the area. In addition to the specialty foods, some of the city’s best food trucks are parked at the market, ready to feed hungry throngs before they head home with their purchases. There’s always music, drawing crowds and dancing children. Last Sunday, the entertainment included a Kinks tribute band, Kinda Kinky.
You can shop for crafts, question a Master Gardener, and learn about various social and political causes. Last Sunday, you could vote for your favorite baked goods in a bake-off contest, using a ranked choice ballot, “It’s practice for voting in November,” said one of the bakers. Across the street from the Kingfield Market, in the parking lot of Frame-Ups, check out the once-a-month craft market.
The Kingfield Farmers Market is open Sundays from 8:30 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.—always, they promise, with 30 or more vendors. Most take credit cards. The market has been neighborhood-run for 13 years. Their final Sunday, this year, is October 27.
Read Exploring the many farmers’ markets and their distinct personalities (Phyllis Louise Harris, 2010)
Correction: When originally published, this post erroneously stated that dogs are prohibited at the Kingfield Farmers Market due to a City of Minneapolis ban on dogs at farmers’ markets. Daniel Huff, the city’s director of environmental health, writes, “There is no Minneapolis prohibition against dogs at outdoor farmers markets. The state food code prohibits dogs inside indoor food establishments and markets or within the food prep area of an outdoor stand. Rules governing dogs brought by patrons at outside markets and sidewalk cafes is solely up to the market or cafe.” This error has been corrected.