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Feature

A photo of tomatoes, yellow peppers, and cucumbers.

Fresh vegetables are on the menu at the new farmers market on the Twin Cities campus. The market runs Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through August 24.

Farmers market debuts on East Bank

Wellness program joins U initiatives that promote local foods

By Pauline Oo and Gayla Marty

Published on July 12, 2005;
updated July 14, 2005

In 2002, the 68-year-old Minneapolis Farmers Market at Lyndale and Glenwood Avenues North opened a satellite location on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. Many employees and students on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis rejoiced. Fresh flowers for the desk and snap peas for dinner were now a mere 12-minute bus ride over the lunch hour. However, this Wednesday, those very flowers and snap peas will literally be a hop, skip, and jump away for some.

The University is launching its very own farmers market July 13 along Church Street on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. The market, which will run each Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. through August 24, will see 10 vendors, including two University student groups, selling Minnesota-grown fresh fruit and vegetables and cut flowers.

"We're thrilled to launch our farmers market, and we're really hoping that a lot of people will take advantage of it to buy their fruits and vegetables," says Carol Carrier, vice president of human resources. "We're starting fairly modestly, in terms of numbers of vendors, but if it's popular, it will grow over time."

Shopping tips

* Bring change and small bills.

* Bring large bags with handles, a backpack, or a wagon to carry your purchases. (The first 500 to visit the Twin Cities campus market on opening day, July 13, will receive a complimentary tote bag.)

* Arrive early for the best selection. (But if you arrive near closing time you may find a deal.)

* Buy only what you can use for a week to assure freshness.

* Refrigerate your perishable purchases as soon as possible.

* Ask questions and get to know the farmers.

Once you're done shopping, or even before you start, head over to the Northrop plaza. Playing noon to 1 p.m. on this Wednesday is Seven Steps to Havana (Cuban-style jazz) and on July 27 is Cafe Accordian Orchestra (waltzes, swing, and tango).

Carrier is responsible for planting the East Bank farmers market seed two years ago, throwing the idea on the table when her office launched the UPlan Wellness program.

"This has been on my list of something that I thought would be wonderful for the U community," she says. "I had no idea what it was going to take to make it happen."

But Carrier's staff latched on to the idea and started the ball rolling early this year to secure a site, recruit farmers, and obtain permits and licenses.

Where is it?

For a map of the exact location of the new farmers market, see the UPlan Wellness Web site.

They set up an ad hoc committee of people from across the University that started meeting the end of January. They sent letters to the Minneapolis Farmers Market cooperative, and 20 vendors responded with interest. As of Friday, 10 had committed.

"The farmers market goes hand-in-hand with the overall UPlan Wellness philosophy of eating right and knowing what's healthy," says Deb Stull-Erickson, the communications staff member in the Office of Human Resources who is coordinating the project.

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, a farmers market benefits consumers because it offers them the chance to buy fresh, ripe, and high-quality produce grown locally and purchased directly from a farmer. In other words, you'll know where your produce comes from.

Healthy people, healthy communities

Farmers markets are also a great way for small-scale producers to reach out directly to consumers. They help to sustain local businesses and reinvest food dollars in communities.

Some other U initiatives are identifying healthy communities and regional economies as the basis for connecting with and using local produce.

Crookston

In the Crookston area, the new Local Foods Partnership connects growers and consumers. The network is a Web site that lists producers of food and fibers, processors, and farmers markets. It can be searched by location and specific product, from alpacas to wool and apples to wine. It was created by the Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership to promote a sustainable regional community.

Duluth

UMD has enjoyed a farmers market on campus on summer Wednesday afternoons for at least five years. The local Sustainable Farming Association offers flowers and plants, herbal hand creams and lip balms, fruit beginning in July, and other produce as it comes into season. Subscribers to an e-mail reminder are alerted to growers and products available each week.

Morris

Morris was the first University campus with a local foods initiative. Pride of the Prairie is a campus-community partnership that helped students and staff get access to local foods through their dining services vendor. When Morris's food service contract was rebid in 2001, the request asked potential food service manager companies to give preference to local foods. The selected vendor, Sodexho Campus Services, agreed. Sodexho has worked with Pride of the Prairie farmers and the Minnesota-based Food Alliance Midwest to bring sustainably raised fruits, vegetables, and other products from Minnesota and Wisconsin to campus tables.

Other projects of Pride of the Prairie have included a fall feast of local foods and music and a spring farmers market and local foods expo, each regularly attended by 500 to 700 people on a campus of 2,000 students. Service learning projects bring students in photography and writing courses to local farms.

Then there are the surprises, such as on June 28, when Steve Poppe, horticulture coordinator at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) across the river from the campus, sold bowls of his renowned fresh strawberries, with or without whipped cream and a biscuit, at the Turtle Mountain Cafe in the Student Center.

Pride of the Prairie is a collaborative effort of area farmers, the Land Stewardship Project, the Sustainable Farming Association, Morris Prairie Renaissance, Sodexho Campus Services, and four University partners--the Morris campus, the West Central Regional Sustainable Partnership, WCROC, and the extension service. Its mission is, in part, to develop a regional food system in western Minnesota that provides nutritious, good-tasting food, nurtures a healthy environment, and provides economic opportunity for area entrepreneurs. Pride of the Prairie publishes a local foods guide and sponsors events and programs across the region.


For more information Local Foods Partnership: Go to www.localfoods.umn.edu or contact Linda Kingery, executive director, Northwest Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, kinge002@umn.edu or 877-854-7737.

UMD Farmers Market: The Sustainable Farming Association offers the market each Wednesday through September 28, 2-4:30 p.m., outside Kirby Plaza. To subscribe to a weekly reminder, contact shub@shubatsfruits.com.

Pride of the Prairie: See www.prideoftheprairie.org or contact Sandy Olson-Loy, vice chancellor for student affairs, University of Minnesota, Morris, at olsonloy@morris.umn.edu.

UPlan Wellness: See http://www.umn.edu/ohr/eb/wellness or contact Deb Stull-Erickson, Employee Benefits, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, at stull004@ umn.edu.

More farmers market locations: The Minnesota Department of Agriculture publishes a directory of over 500 Minnesota farmers markets, pick-your-own berry farms, apple orchards, nurseries, Christmas tree farms, and other growers who sell direct. It's available online at Minnesota Grown Directory.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture lists 62 farmers markets in Minnesota and more than 3,700 across the nation on the USDA Farmers Markets Web site.

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