GLOBAL GROCERIES | Starting a new farmers market in Minneapolis isn’t easy

Todd Douma and Brad Tetzloff quickly learned that starting a farmers market from scratch in Minneapolis isn’t for the faint of heart. But after three years of planning, the Nokomis Farmers Market is finally open for business.

The new market, located at the corner of Chicago Ave. and 52nd St., is currently in a test phase, and with two Wednesday evenings down and one more to go, no decision has yet been made for its fate for next year. But so far, organizers are calling the Nokomis Market a success.

“It seemed like something we needed,” said Douma, a member of Hale Page Diamond Lake Business Alliance, which fostered the market. “Other neighborhood events like Picnic in the Park in July and Frost Fest in January are heavily attended, so we knew the neighborhood would support it.”

To open a new farmers market requires licensing with the city’s health department, with vendors and locations in place before applications can be even submitted. The paperwork includes certificates of liability insurance, environmental health and food safety plans, zoning addendums and health plan review applications. There are dozens of restrictions and exacting food handling guidelines for the market and vendors to follow.

He teamed up with fellow committee member Brad Tetzloff to raise money to start the market, Douma said, but after months of discussion, plans kept falling through.

So the group reached out to their city councilman, John Quincy, who put them in touch with the already well-established Kingfield market, he said, and under the umbrella of the Kingfield Market Board, proposals for the Nokomis Market began to move ahead.

“Kingfield has a full time and a part time person. They have a lawyer,” said Douma. “Brad and I have full time jobs and this would have taken hundreds of hours. Alex Cortes and Jeff Alden with the Kingfield market basically brought it home for us. Without them, we’d never have gotten this done. They took care of the licensing and the vendors.”

But there are other complications to opening a farmers market, said Minneapolis Department of Health inspector Katie Lampi, such as the limit placed on the kinds of vendors the markets are allowed to have.

“Only 10 percent can be resale vendors,” Lampi said. “Markets need access to water, access to bathrooms and access to a certified food manager if there are any food vendors.”

Fortunately, the First Evangelical Free Church allowed market-goers to use their bathrooms, Douma said. “We are very thankful for the church.”

The US Department of Agriculture calculates that there are more than 8,000 farmers markets across the country today, which is four times the number that existed only a couple of decades ago. And nationally, they declared August 3-9 “Farmers Market Week,” with Minnesota governor Mark Dayton declaring the same statewide.

Minnesota farmers markets have grown from 43 just two decades ago to 175 around the state with 29 markets in Minneapolis alone, according to the city’s website.

For weeks before the market opened, Nokomis residents started to see dozens of stick-in-the-ground orange signs with information about the new farmers market. The market would be open only on the last Wednesdays of June, July and August. The planners didn’t know how many people would show up, Douma said, but they were hopeful.

“At the first one, the vendors and food trucks ran out of food,” he said. “For the second everyone overstocked. Business was steady but it wasn’t mobbed, but all-in-all, it seems like the neighborhood has embraced it.”

Adrienne Logsdon, like many vendors, is a farmers market veteran. She can be found on weekends at the Kingfield and other farmers markets, bringing in jars of “Kiss My Cabbage” sauerkraut (plain, lemon/garlic/dill, caraway/juniper) and authentic kimchi.

But others are like part time farmer Luanne Schroeck; a first-timer to farmers market selling. She currently sells only at the Nokomis Market, chosen because of a neighborhood connection – she has a fulltime job at the Kowalski’s supermarket, six blocks down Chicago Ave.

“I love living on the farm, growing these vegetables,” Schroeck said. “I love the peace and quiet and being in touch with the earth. But, I wanted to be here selling my produce to the neighborhood.”

For Douma, the whole ordeal has been “awe-inspiring.”

“I love the bands playing at the market and how the chairs are set up so you can just sit and listen to the music or eat from the food trucks,” he said “One guy came up to me and said he’d spent two hours in the warm summer sun with his two kids and he still didn’t want to leave.”

The Nokomis Farmers Market will only be open once more this year, on Wednesday, August 27 from 4:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. Vendors include produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, herbs, jams, maple syrup, artist made t-shirts and jewelry and there may be food trucks and music. Watch this spot to see if the market opens again next summer.

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Stephanie Fox's picture
Stephanie Fox

Stephanie Fox (stephaniefox2 at tcdailyplanet dot net) has a Master's Degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She moved to Minneapolis of her own free will in 1984.