Farmers markets grow in popularity in Minneapolis

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Terry Sias sold her baked goods out of a church parking lot Saturday morning in Northeast Minneapolis.

After spending 16 hours in her small St. Louis Park, Minn., kitchen baking brownies and other treats in preparation, she was just one vendor at the opening day of this year’s Northeast Farmers Market. She’s been coming to sell her home-baked goods at the market for four years.

“I just love to bake,” she said. “And when I heard that I could sell my own things here, I came right out.”

Increasingly, residents like Sias are taking their home-grown goods to farmers markets across Minneapolis. The city issued 33 permits for farmers markets in 2010 — up from 22 in 2009.

And recent city action could be a further boost.

The Minneapolis City Council passed the Urban Agriculture Plan in mid-April, updating the zoning code to provide citizens more opportunities to grow and sell their own food within the city.

The plan doesn’t have many direct implications for farmers markets, said Amanda Arnold, a city planner who helped draft the plan. But others are confident they’ll benefit from the increased visibility of locally grown foods.

David Nicholson, a consultant who works with farmers markets in the city, said by raising awareness of the benefits of homegrown foods, markets like the one in Northeast will benefit.

“It will raise the visibility of the local food system generally, and the importance of the local food system in creating a vibrant and sustainable community,” Nicholson said. “And farmers markets are a part of that too.”

Nicholson pointed to several markets at risk of losing their home. Because the city only provides permits for farmers markets to operate, the owner of the property has a say in whether they can be on their land.

Nicholson hopes that by raising their visibility, farmers markets will someday have a more permanent home.

Jill Thielen, who manages the University of Minnesota’s Farmers Market, said it requires vendors to grow their food near the Twin Cities. Much of the produce that makes it to the market was picked the same morning, she said.

“I think that’s kind of what people are looking for now,” Thielen said. “They’re looking for it for economic reasons, for convenience and for freshness.”

The University’s market is open Wednesdays from July 13 to Oct. 5 on Church Street.

Thielen added that while attendance and the number of vendors have increased at the University market, they are  still trying to reach out to students. She said organizers hired a marketing intern this year and created a Facebook page to appeal to students.

Sias said more people want to know where their food comes from, and meeting their vendor face-to-face is the best way to do that.

“I know people here by name and they know me by name,” she said. “Communities embrace farmers markets.”