Category: General News

Summer into Fall, safely

Early in the year, our market season seems to stretch out forever—and then all of a sudden it’s nearly complete. 24 markets down, only two to go!  Thanks for your patience and steadfastness as we’ve navigated all of the “usual” uncertainties of the season (like growing conditions and market day weather) and the UNUSUAL uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our vendors are reporting that sales in 2020 exceeded their expectations—which means that you turned a truly sour “lemon” situation into lovely lemonade for many small farms and food makers. 

Very soon, we’ll share detailed information about our plans to host November and December indoor markets at the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes.  This fall, the market is moving to the large retail space that formerly housed Forever 21.  We’re lining up vendors and carefully planning our COVID-19 safety measures for these indoor events…stay tuned!

As we contemplate indoor markets and the long winter ahead, safety and health are top of mind. As it happens, safety and health are ALWAYS top of mind at Maple Grove Hospital, the market’s presenting “Safer at the Market” sponsor for 2020. Maple Grove Hospital and North Memorial Health have rolled out a healthy checklist of strategies for this unique time. From flu shots to virtual doctor visits and beyond, this list will give you additional tools to navigate fall and winter.

Please join us in thanking Maple Grove Hospital for its ongoing care of the community.  Their proactive sponsorship of the farmers market helps us to keep vendor fees reasonable and supports many of the ways we communicate with you.

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Market FAQ: An August update to help you plan your visit.

We always want you to feel welcome and comfortable when shopping the market. We have recently heard questions and concerns from shoppers who wonder how the market is working at this point in the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is a short list of timely Frequently Asked Questions to help you plan your visit.

Q: Does the market have special hours reserved for seniors and those with health concerns in light of COVID-19?
A: Early in the season, we asked shoppers to reserve 3:00-3:30 for our senior guests. We are no longer doing so. This isn’t out of disrespect or lack of care for those of you who are 55+ or immune-compromised. We simply don’t have the ability hold back the large number of shoppers who arrive between 2:45 and 3:30. We appreciate that YOU are reading this Q and A, but many shoppers just stop by when they see the signs around town. We don’t have enough space or staff to make them line up and wait until 3:30 without creating a traffic hazard. The market is much quieter between 5 and 7 and selection is still very good. If you like a less crowded atmosphere, please attend later!

Q: Are masks required?
A: Per MN Executive Order 20-81, all workers in the market are required to wear masks unless they fall into a medical exemption category. If a vendor is not wearing a mask, you can assume that they are exempt and that market management is aware of the fact. Customers are strongly encouraged to wear masks but it is not a requirement under current state or city laws. As such, we cannot require shoppers to wear them.

Q: When does the market open?
A: Customers are welcome to enter the market after 2:40 but sales do not begin until 3:00, when we sound an opening horn. NOTE: We routinely sound the horn 3-5 minutes early.

Q: Are children allowed in the market?
A: The market has always been a very family-friendly place and we cherish kids of all ages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are grateful to families who can send just one or two people to do the family shopping for the week. This helps us to stay under our 250-person maximum customer capacity. However, we are not denying admission to families with children. We ask that families keep their children close by and move through the market as a unit.

We know that these times are unsettling and that shopping can be nerve-wracking. We want you to have all the information you need to plan your trip. Please visit our web site at www.maplegrovefarmersmarket.com for a complete and up-to-date list of our COVID-19 response strategies. Note that we are working carefully with state and city governments and Hennepin County Health Inspectors to comply with all relevant laws.

We also respectfully request your patience and kindness as we’re doing our best to stay open for our growers, food makers, and the community. I hope you will reach out to me directly at market or between markets to express your concerns. Remember, many of the people stationed at the market entrance are volunteers and hourly staff members working to serve you.

Thank you! Eat well this weekend!

Kirsten Bansen Weigle
Market Manager
kbansenweigle@maplegrovemn.gov

PS–Have you noticed the beautiful chalk art by our volunteer Ruby? Isn’t she talented?

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August at the Farmers Market: What’s in Season?

August 2020

These pandemic days are the slowest fast-moving days–or maybe the fastest slow-moving weeks–I have ever experienced. Do you feel the same? There is time to savor moments and flavors and even the long-forgotten sensation of boredom. But it’s already August? What???

Growing conditions have been ideal for warm-season crops this year. Air temperatures have been above average, both in the daytime and nighttime. As a result we’re moving into high season for market produce even earlier than usual.

The key to a continual succession of vegetables is timed plantings of the same crop at intervals throughout the spring and summer. For example, the earliest, fastest-maturing corn varieties have already been harvested. Our growers are now harvesting a second planting of sweet corn for your table. They are experts–we all benefit from their hard work.

August is a great time to preserve the harvest, whether on a small scale (perhaps a few jars of blueberry jam) or to fill a winter pantry (tomatoes, cucumbers, and more are available in bulk quantities. Market vendors are happy to reserve large orders for you to pick up on market day.) It’s a great idea to assemble your supplies BEFORE you purchase the produce you intend to freeze, can, dehydrate or jam. Food preservation supplies like freezer bags, jar lids, and pectin can be a little hard to find.

Want to preserve the good feeling of the market along with the good flavors? After the canning or freezing is done, when you’re writing on your jar lid or label, include the vendor’s name. For example: “Cherry tomato sauce, Yang family, 8-1-2020.” Doing so helps me pause to mentally thank the folks who grew and harvested my food, even in the cold of January. Everything tastes better when seasoned with gratitude.

Here is a list of the produce you can expect to find in the market as the month progresses. We can’t possibly list everything. New varieties will appear every single week in August, so be sure to keep an eye out for that hotter pepper or new variety of muskmelon. Savor. Enjoy.

  • apples arrive mid- to late August. Early varieties include State Fair, Beacon, First Kiss, SweeTango, and crabapples.
  • basil
  • beans (green, yellow, purple,speckled, more!)
  • beets (golden and red)
  • bitter melon
  • blueberries
  • broccoli
  • cabbage (regular, napa)
  • cantaloupe and muskmelons
  • carrots (orange, red, white, purple)
  • cauliflower (white, purple, yellow)
  • chard
  • cherry tomatoes–many varieties
  • cilantro
  • cucumbers (pickling slicing, and specialty)
  • dill
  • eggplant (MANY varieties)
  • garlic
  • greens
  • ground cherries
  • kale
  • kohlrabi
  • microgreens
  • mint
  • mushrooms
  • Potatoes–red, yellow, white, purple; fingerling; russet potatoes by late August
  • onions (green onions, as well as yellow, white and red)
  • pattypan and other summer squash varieties
  • peppers (new varieties added every week in August)
  • radishes
  • raspberries
  • sweet corn
  • tomatoes (slicing, sauce, heirloom varieties)
  • watermelon (yellow, red, orange, many sizes–seeded and seedless)
  • zucchini

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Father’s Day

As long as I can remember, it’s been a real challenge to shop for my Dad. I struggle to think of gifts to buy him and when I do, there is a good chance he has already bought that item for himself.

My quest for a great gift for my dad changed one day at the Farmers Market in 2018. I was working at the market info booth and a coworker had stopped by to say hello. She was done with work for the day and was picking up some pickles for her Dad. She mentioned that he was obsessed with one of our vendor’s pickles and she had come to buy pickles as a Father’s Day gift.

Cue my light bulb moment. My Dad LOVES pickles. I thought, “What the heck, I’ll buy him some pickles for Father’s Day.” I headed over to Schyma’s Pickles and Preserves and bought a few jars of pickles. They were a huge hit.  My Dad loved them, shared them, and I found myself in a new role as “pickle supplier,” buying pickles on a weekly basis for our friends and family.

Along with pickles, my Dad loves baked beans. In 2019 l decided to mix it up for Father’s Day and I bought him some baked beans from JB’s Homemade at It’s Finest. The beans were a hit and I now am the bean transporter, buying 1 gallon of beans at the market every time I see my Dad.

Unique food items make wonderful gifts for any holiday or celebration. Have you ever shopped the Farmers Market for holiday or hostess gifts? We would love to hear what you’ve purchased and for whom!

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Connecting over Food

As a new homeowner, quarantine has been a great time to work on projects around the house. The first few weeks were spent spring cleaning and decluttering the inside, but as the weather has warmed, my projects have moved to the exterior of the house.

After many YouTube videos, Internet searches, and a few calls to my Mom, I successfully landscaped around the house and garage. While seeing my finished project gave me lots of satisfaction (and much cleaner hands!), I enjoyed the process of planting and landscaping. There is something so rewarding about working in the sun, breaking a sweat, and seeing a little progress every day.

One moment that stands out from my project actually has nothing to do with landscaping. While working in the yard, I heard a soft mutter over the fence. Our sweet neighbor was stopping by to say hello.  He and his wife are both retired and we haven’t seen them much during quarantine. We chatted briefly about house projects, gardening, and life during quarantine.

Right before we wrapped the conversation, our neighbor mentioned that it might be fun to get together for a meal after quarantine was over. Then he suggested that instead of waiting for quarantine to end, we could pack our own meals and bring our families together – at a safe 6 ft. distance – across the fence between our yards.

While we haven’t put a date on the calendar for our fence picnic yet, our conversation made me think about the role that food and gathering over meals plays in connecting with others, even during quarantine. Thinking back to family gatherings, people always seemed to congregate around food – whether that meant standing around appetizers at the kitchen island or a bowl of chips and salsa at the table. I come from large Italian family, so food is always at the center of every get together. There is always a large spread of food, way too many leftovers, and it wasn’t until I met my fiancé that I learned that not all family gatherings take place in the kitchen!  

As I continued to think about experiences gathering over food, I thought a lot about what that means for the farmers market during this time. Although the market isn’t a place where we can gather and linger right now, there is still so much beauty in being able to buy food direct from the growers and makers.  Those folks across the table from you are the same ones who planted a seed, nurtured it, and grew it into the bountiful harvest that sits on your table. These are the people who have spent countless hours testing that recipe to bake a delicious treat that you can take home and share with your family.

As you shop, I encourage you to get to know your vendors – ask them questions about their products, themselves, and their business. They truly are a great resource and have so much knowledge about food. Even in this time of social distancing, a smile, a thank you, and a brief conversation while you purchase from your local growers and makers can be the building blocks of a new connection and friendship.

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