Minnesota has more than 175 farmers’ markets, and several of the best are right here in our own backyards – St. Joseph, Sartell 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 that 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, that 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 first farmers’ market in St. Joseph nearly 15 years ago. It was founded by a dedicated bunch of people who included visionaries from the St. Joseph Sustainability group, the St. Benedict Monastery and the two local colleges, as well as local growers eager and ready to sell their foods face-to-face with local customers. In its first few years, the market was located on the grounds of the old Del-Win Ballroom. Later, its venue became the grounds by the Wobegon Trailhead, with is winter market quarters inside Resurrection Lutheran Church.
Each year, the Friday-afternoon market has been so successful it’s become a staple of the St. Joseph summer and winter seasons.
From the very beginning, organizers added so many fun things to the market, such as musical performances, cooking demonstrations and kids’ games. It was yet another example of highlighting “local” – local talents along with local foods.
During National Farmers Market Week, we salute the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market – its organizers and the local growers who make it such a success. We also salute all the farmers’ markets in the greater St. Cloud area and elsewhere.