28° and Snow at 11:11pm in Pine City

Farmers’ Market in the Park Debuts Friday

Monday, July 13th, 2009 at 8:32 am

● Fresh, local produce and homemade items converge in town square

As summer continues to heat up, a familiar seasonal tradition is kicking off this Friday: the farmers’ market in Robinson Park.

Repositioned adjacent to where it has been the past couple of seasons, along 3rd Avenue, the market will open along the east side of the park for the public to purchase home grown and hand made items.

Citizens from all over can browse the stands set up from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays, beginning tomorrow, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays beginning next week.

“There’s a real interest this year,” said city planner Nathan Johnson. “People are definitely ready for fresh produce and luckily we’ve seen an up tick in new vendor applications prior to the market.”

Market in the Park steering committee members hope that added interest will bring more people downtown.  Some in the community are already getting antsy.

“I just talked to Shirley at Sauser’s Hardware, and she said that people coming in there are asking about the market.” said Jennifer Peterson, the market’s manager.

Due to a cooler and drier start to summer, the growing season is a little behind schedule, but the debut of the farmers’ market will still have vendors selling jam, jelly, rhubarb, pickling cucumbers, eggs, crafts, honey, green beans, peas, orchids, fresh flowers, potatoes, kohlrabi and much more.

“Our produce is slowly trickling in,” says Bev Raudabaugh, of Melon Vine Farm, when one reaches her farm’s voicemail greeting.

“As we get further into the season, we will definitely start to see more vendors and more fresh produce,” explained Peterson.

Recently, Pine City’s farmers’ market became a Buy Fresh, Buy Local (BFBL) market, part of the St. Croix River Valley’s chain of BFBL markets.

The farmers’ market is not only a great way for farmers, gardeners and artisans to sell their products, but it’s also a very important service to the community.

“The farmers’ market helps make it affordable to eat healthy,” said C.J. Gustafson, owner of Sprouts Hometown Market, a natural food store downtown.

“The more locally-grown food we have available, the better,” said Gustafson.  “More and more people are beginning to realize how important it is to eat fresh produce that hasn’t traveled thousands of miles to get here or been sprayed with chemicals to make it last longer.  It’s better for our health and better for our environment.”

Peterson also commented on the importance of knowing where your food is coming from. ABOUT THE MARKET

• What: Pine City Farmers’ Market, featuring fresh, local and regionally grown produce, plants and flowers, and homemade goods.

• Where: Along Railroad Street SE at Robinson Park, downtown.

• Opens: Friday. Hours are 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays.  Saturday markets begin July 25, from 9 a.m. to Noon.

• Notable: The flea market, which is similar to a large yard sale that sells used wares, is held Wednesdays at the Pine County Fairgrounds through October, with approximate hours of 6 a.m. to Noon.  Contact (320) 629-6924 for additional information.

• Information: To learn more or to rent a stall, call Jennifer at (320) 629-2664 or e-mail duskwindfarms@gmail.com.

• On the Web: Visit pinecity.govoffice.com for information for local vendors, including the vendors’ handbook and application.

“If it’s locally grown, you know the soil, you just feel more comfortable,” she said. “Items sold at a local farmers’ market are usually picked in the last 24 hours. It goes straight from our gardens to the table.”

The farmers’ market is also a chance for those who do not have the space or the time to grow their own garden to get some fresh produce, she said.

“It’s really a good thing for the community,” Johnson added. “If you haven’t done so before, go check it out.”

He said that this year’s market will also feature several events, including ambiance music, special guest appearances, demos and other activities.

Improving the market

Last year, Pine City’s “Market in the Park” was awarded a matching grant in the amount of $2,500 from the Initiative Foundation to help sustain the market.  The steering committee plans to use those funds to develop the market to enhance the downtown area.

“The focus is to promote economic stability in this area and to divert more attention and activity to Pine City’s ‘heart’,” explained Johnson.  A farmers’ market was a part of the original town plat, demonstrating the importance the activity has had in the history of the community, he said.

The grant money will help to make farmers’ market more special and memorable, he said.  “The market would be an asset to the downtown businesses and to the many wonderful events that already take place there.”

In 2006, a $5,000 matching grant was received for the market, which allowed the market to hire a manager.  Local funds were raised through business sponsorships, community organizations and other in-kind donations.

The steering committee anticipates that the community will assist in the market raising the necessary matching funds again this year.  Memberships have been reduced from $75 to $25 for those wishing to support the market.  Membership fees can be used as a part of the matching portion of the grant.

Johnson said the grant money will more specifically be used to help with continuity in the market manager position as well as for better branding, new signage and building ties with local businesses.

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