Midtown Farmers Market returns May 3

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The popular Midtown Farmers’ Market returns May 3, kicking off at 8 a.m. with opening-day festivities that include sheep shearing at 10 a.m. and noon, master gardeners on-hand starting at 9 a.m., and storytime hosted by the Minneapolis Public Library starting at 11 a.m. Live music by local musician Steve West also starts at 11 a.m.

Since 2003, the parking lot at the corner of Lake Street and 22nd Avenue, across from the Midtown YWCA, has been transformed into a market with “real food for real people,” according to Dayna Burtness, assistant manager. Beyond the fresh produce, food and hot coffee, there’s an array of art, crafts, and live entertainment, along with a wide range of cultural events and festivals.

At Midtown Farmers’ Market’s Web site http://www.midtownfarmersmarket.org you’ll find more information about the market, find a calendar of events, and join their email list.

After the May 3 opening, the Midtown market runs Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., through October 25. Starting July 8 and continuing until October 21, the market will be open on Tuesdays from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The market unfolds with stalls filled with Minnesota- or Wisconsin-produced offerings from food vendors, artisans and craftspeople. On a typical peak-season Saturday, the market sees about 2000 visitors, according to Burtness.

The list of produce varies throughout the market season. In the spring, farmers sell lettuce, peas, spinach, asparagus, raspberries and strawberries, with summer’s bounty bringing beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, lettuce, melons, onions, peppers, summer squash, tomatoes and sweet corn. Crisp classics like apples, pumpkins and winter squash come in the fall.

Throughout the year, the market features freshly-baked goods such as artisan breads and pastries, cheeses, honey, meats, eggs and pickles. Also for sale are bedding plants such as heirloom vegetables, annuals, perennials and hanging baskets.

Artisans and craftspeople peddle pottery, paintings, jewelry, and handmade soap and candles.

New additions include buffalo meat and a craft called the BaggieWash, a dishwasher rack used for washing plastic bags for reuse, according to Burtness. She also hopes to see a kettle corn vendor at the market sometime this summer.

While customers can expect to find unique items for sale, they can buy basics for the week as well. Vendors sell more than just “frou-frou, boutique-y food like artisan cheeses,” Burtness said. “People come to the market to stock up on their potatoes and onions for the week.”

The Midtown Farmers’ Market is the first Minnesota market to let customers use EBT cards (issued through the Food Stamp Program) or a VISA or MasterCard to pay for goods, according to Burtness. Machines in the information tent let customers trade their plastic dollars for wooden market tokens, which can be used like cash throughout the market.

Among past market festivals was the Latino Family Resource Fair, La Feria, featuring information about health care resources, social services and education for Latinos, tentatively scheduled for August 9 this year.

The market has free onsite parking and bike racks, and is near the Hiawatha Line Lake Street/Midtown light-rail station at East Lake Street and 22nd Avenue South and also on Metro bus routes 7, 21, 27, 53 and 55. The Midtown Greenery bike trail is also just a few blocks south.

The volunteer-run market began as a grassroots effort of South Minneapolis residents and remains a community affair. Local neighborhood residents, other Minneapolis residents, even “a couple of people from the suburbs who just love it so much” help plan, publicize and run the market, Burtness said.

Carla Kaiser is one of the market’s “super volunteers,” according to Burtness. Kaiser, who lives in the Standish-Ericsson area of Minneapolis, currently serves on the market’s volunteer-run Advisory Committee and assists with the event’s marketing. She’s worked with the market since 2004, first serving as the market’s assistant manager through the Lutheran Volunteer Corps program.

She said she “loves” the Midtown Farmers’ Market and calls it a “really fun event that’s kept me interested and involved.”

Kaiser said it’s truly a community affair. “The sense of ownership for shoppers and volunteers keeps them coming back.”

The market is a project of the Corcoran Neighborhood Organization (CNO) and directed by its Advisory Committee, the CNO Board of Directors and the CNO Executive Director. For more information on how to support the market as a volunteer, performer, donor or community partner, see the market’s Web site.

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