Minnesota has more than 175 farmers’ markets, and several of the best are right here in our own backyards – Sartell, St. Joseph and St. Cloud.
Aug. 3-9 is National Farmers Market Week, a time to celebrate local growers, local markets and, last but not least, a blessedly abundant supply of fresh, delicious and nutritious foods.
Farmers’ markets have been the forerunners of several healthy trends in recent years. Those trends include the “shop local” movement; an ever-increasing demand for fresh, locally grown products; a new awareness of the importance of quality nutrition (mainly eating more fresh vegetables, fruits, grains); a reluctance to buy mass-produced foods that have been treated with pesticides and herbicides; and a new interest by consumers in wanting to know where their food comes from and the methods that went into its production.
This is not to suggest all mass-produced foods are bad or inferior. Furthermore, it’s impossible to buy all of one’s food locally. However, many people have discovered getting even part of their food supply fresh-grown and locally produced is a good thing. As every great chef knows, fresh is best in every way.
When farmers’ markets first began many years ago, there was a prevailing attitude they wouldn’t last, they were a kind of back-to-nature, hippy-type indulgence favored by bunny huggers and pipe-dream environmentalists. But, in fact, year by year people of all walks of life are discovering the pleasures of farmers’ markets, not just for food but for a social nexus at which people can leisurely stroll about in the fresh air and meet and chat with interesting people. In essence, what happened is the “road-side food stand,” which has been around forever, morphed into a market where a stunning variety of that kind of road-side fresh food became more widely available. Farmers’ markets have long been a staple of European cities, stemming back to medieval times and even before.
We recall the fledgling efforts of the first Sartell farmers’ market (“Market Monday”), which began four years ago. It was started by Amy Braig-Lindstrom, a Sartell resident and now city council member with a long experience of participating in farmers’ markets, first in her Iowa hometown and later in New York. Her organizational work led to a market being established next to the Bernick’s Arena in Pinecone Regional Park. The market has since been moved north, to the Sartell City Hall grounds. Every season, the market gets better and better, with more additions, including music, cooking demonstrations, the promotion of other local events and fun activities for children.
Braig-Lindstrom is an example of an open-minded “outsider” coming to town and seeing in a visionary way possibilities “insiders” had not seen. She has also been instrumental in giving strong support, partly via the city council, to other developments in Sartell: the dog park, trail development and improvements, and many recreational-cultural activities.
We salute Braig-Lindstrom for creating Market Monday, both the summer and winter versions. And we salute all the local growers and all the farmers’ markets everywhere. May they continue to thrive.