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Pie pumpkin

Pumpkins, apples and more: October at the market.

If you love fall, the farmers market is the place for you. Our vendors offer an abundance of colorful and unique pumpkins, apples, and so much more.

You’ll find all of the colors and flavors that make the season special. Breathe in the crisp air and feel the warm sun on your face as you shop outside on October 7, 14, and 21 from 3-6 p.m. at the Maple Grove Community Center. Here’s what you need to know:

Hours of Operation

The market will be open from 3-6 p.m. to account for the earlier sunset.

Seasonal Products

Find a gorgeous selection of unique pumpkins, gourds, and winter squash for decorating AND (of course!) for eating. The market also features apples a’plenty. A little research and taste-testing will help you discover your favorite local apple varieties: Pick Your Perfect Minnesota Grown Apple.

Full line of produce

Because of unseasonably warm temperatures throughout the summer and fall of 2021, our vendor stalls are still bursting with produce. You can expect a great selection of vegetables right up until the first frost.

Indoor Markets begin Tuesday November 23

Our final outdoor market will be Thursday October 21, 2021. We’ll be open next INSIDE the Community Center on TUESDAY, November 23. That’s a long time! Be sure to stock your pantry for good eats in early November.

Trick-or-Treat Market

On October 21, kids are invited to come to market in costume to trick-or-treat at vendor stalls. This is also a great opportunity to join/check in to the Power of Produce Club, and of course to choose the perfect Halloween pumpkin.

Vendor attendance

Vendor availability can be more limited this time of year, as family obligations and employee shortages seem to peak in the fall. Be sure to subscribe to market e-mails or follow on Facebook for each week’s vendor roster.

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Sort stems by flower type

Extend the life of your farmers market bouquet

You’ve made it to the market. You’ve browsed all of the colors and textures and scents of those gorgeous farmers market bouquets. You’re strolling out with an armful of beautiful seasonal blooms. Now what?

Take these simple steps to extend the vase life of your bouquet. Read on for detailed information!

Hurry home with your blossoms! Don’t leave them in a hot car. Place the stems in lukewarm water until you are ready to arrange them in a vase.

When you are ready, choose a sparkling clean vase and fill 3/4 full with lukewarm water. Bacteria will shorten the life of your blooms, so be sure to scrub out residue and debris from previous bouquets.

Remove flowers from plastic or paper sleeve and carefully remove rubber band.

Using a sharp clipper, trim at least one inch from each stem. If using a smaller/shorter vase, you can clip off more than one inch.

Important! Remove all leaves and foliage that will be in the water in your vase. Leaves decay underwater, hastening bacterial growth and shortening the life of your blooms.

Most bouquets will include foliage, filler flowers, base flowers, and focal flowers. After trimming stems and leaves, slide the whole bouquet into your vase. Or…it’s fun to sort the stems and create your own arrangement. Play with your flowers!

Begin with foliage (pictured: lemon basil) and filler flowers (pictured: gomphrena). These will serve as the base “architecture” of your bouquet.

Add the larger “base” flowers, which will create the feeling of the bouquet (pictured: red “madame butterfly snapdragons, white zinnias). Rotate the vase as you add stems.

Add focal flowers (the big showy guys.) Pictured here: dahlias.

The same blossoms can look very different, depending upon which vase you choose. This little cutie requires shorter stems, so make deeper cuts. (Be sure to remove foliage in water!)

With even shorter stems, this same bouquet makes an elegant centerpiece in a pedestal bowl. (Pro tip: a strip of chicken wire folded into an “egg” shape holds the stems in this bowl.)

Monitor the water level in your vase and add fresh water daily. Remove spent blossoms along with their stems as needed. Enjoy your farmers market bouquet!

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A visit to the Lee farm

It’s a hazy morning in the middle of a hot, dry season when we visit Gaonou Lee and her family at their farm in Corcoran, MN. Five members of the Lee family are at work in the field as we wind our way along the bumpy farm track. We show up “bright and early” at 8:30, but Gaounou and family have been at the farm since 5:30. They are harvesting produce to be sold at the Maple Grove Farmers Market the next day.

The pandemic had delayed our visit by a year. Gaonou’s uncle and aunt were Maple Grove vendors for many years. They decided to stop actively farming in 2020 and Gounou applied in their place. Under these circumstances, we like to visit the farm to get to know our new vendors a little better and learn about their growing practices.

Gaonou and her father, Tongwa Lee, led us on a tour of the farm. Tongwa began farming in 1984 when he came to Minnesota from Laos. He was mentored by an uncle who grew produce to sell at Twin Cities-area farmers markets. Tongwa and his wife Xong Khang have farmed continually since that time. The family currently attends four farmers markets each week: Maple Grove on Thursday, New Hope and Lyndale (Minneapolis) markets on Saturday, and the Lyndale market again on Sunday.

Seven day work week

On Monday and Tuesday, the family works on the farm–weeding, planting, watering, staking, and fertilizing. On Wednesday they work together to begin the week’s harvest, picking and packing until about 12:30, when they head back home for an hour’s rest. The remainder of the day is spent trimming and cleaning produce in preparation for the Maple Grove Farmers Market on Thursday. Then:

  • Thursday – market
  • Friday – harvest and prepare
  • Saturday – two markets (and sometimes harvest in the afternoon)
  • Sunday – market
  • And wow – it’s Monday again.

“We pretty much stay home in the winter,” Gaonou told us with a smile.

A family effort

Five members of this family of eight are involved in the weekly tasks of produce farming. Others pitch in as needed, and Gao’s grandparents often come to the farm to visit and talk.

“I’ve always told my kids to stay in school,” said Tongwa of his six children. “I don’t want them to start a job – a hard job – right after high school and get used to that pay check. I’ve always told them ‘I will farm to help send you to college and then you’ll be able to get an easier job in an office.'” The wisdom of this plan is becoming evident, as the family celebrated a son’s recent college graduation and looks forward to an older daughter’s completion of a master’s degree.

Farming practices

Several important strategies are evident as we tour the farm. Tongwa is especially grateful for the farm’s heavier clay soil structure in this dry year. Clay tends to hold the small amount of rain we’ve received. There is no water source on the property, which means that water brought from home must be carefully rationed for the highest-value crops, like tomatoes. Watering is time-consuming and much less effective than rainfall.

The Lees also plant several successions of each crop to ensure a consistent, high-quality supply of their most popular crops for customers. For example, four green bean plantings are spaced out over the course of the season. When one planting is finished, the next is mature and ready for harvest. Growing conditions (like heat and drought) have a huge impact on how quickly or slowly a crop is ready.

They also plant a LOT. (13 acres is a mind-boggling amount of fresh produce.) “We don’t use sprays, so we always have to think about the bugs,” said Gaonou. “Sometimes the insects take the first planting of a crop but then the second one is ours to pick.” Deer and raccoons are also frequent visitors, helping themselves to corn, peas, beans, and whatever looks tasty.

Crops are rotated to a new location on the farm each season to promote soil health and help to control pests. The Lees have been growing produce on this 13-acre plot since 2014. Each year, they must re-negotiate the rent. The land is currently up for sale, but the owner has assured them that they can continue to farm there until a new owner is found.

Find Gaonou and family at market every Thursday in the NW corner of the market. They asked that this article conclude with their sincere thanks for shopping at the market and purchasing their produce. “Without the customers’ amazing support there would be no Gaonou’s Farm today.”

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Curiosity and Connection: Earth Day 2021

It’s Earth Day 2021. Spring! Finally!

Springtime is a new season for growing and for farmers markets. This year, it’s a time of readjusting/re-connecting in the wake of the pandemic and the resolution of the Chauvin trial. It’s a season of continued grief and uncertainty as we mourn the killing of Daunte Wright. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling…stretched.

Where to start? How to care for the bodies, families, and livelihoods of our community in the midst of uncertainty? How to prioritize soil health and clean air and water when our attention is called to healing our interpersonal relationships? And while we’re at it, what the heck is for dinner tonight?

I think it’s helpful to keep that question mark at the end of every sentence. Curiosity gives us room to grow and see the many facets of each of our decisions. For me, the farmers market is a great place to stay curious AND find some of the answers to my big and small questions.

When you shop the market, you’re in close proximity (but not too close, of course–six feet should do it) with neighbors from many backgrounds, races, and walks of life. It’s a great way to learn about culinary traditions that are different from your own. It’s an even better way–in these distanced, polarized times–to form bonds of friendship in a neutral environment. It’s good for body and soul to share a greeting and a laugh with farmers market friends once each week.

When you shop the market, you’re purchasing food from people who are tending to our soil, air and water right here, on a small scale. You also support small-scale food entrepreneurs who in turn purchase supplies and business support services locally.

When you stay curious at the market, one new flavor can gradually lead to healthy lifestyle changes. It’s fun to eat more veggies when you can report back to the farmer that you prepared and loved those golden beets or SweeTango apples or purple carrots.

Last but not least for this working parent, the market often gives me answers about what on Earth to cook for dinner. Happy Earth Day. We’re so excited to welcome you back to the Maple Grove Farmers Market on Thursday May 13 from 3-7. We’ll be back at our home base–the Maple Grove Community Center, 12951 Weaver Lake Road, Maple Grove MN, 55369, North America, Planet Earth.

~Kirsten Bansen Weigle, Market Manager

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New school year, new habits!

Just like that, it’s a new season. Mother Nature certainly turned on the sweatshirt weather to celebrate the traditional start of Minnesota’s school year! The cool temperatures and the sharpened pencils feel familiar, but like so many aspects of 2020, autumn feels different. School, work, and social routines have changed. From youngest to oldest we each have new roles and responsibilities to safeguard the health and success of the community.
That is just one of the reasons we’re grateful to Maple Grove Hospital, our 2020 Presenting “Safe at the Market” sponsor. As part of our shared commitment to your health, we want you to be aware of the four habits everyone can develop to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It feels great to know that these simple strategies will make a real difference in our efforts to get kids in school and keep them there.

New Habits to Keep us Safer: Good Advice from the Good Doctor

At the farmers market, masks are required for all market workers and are highly recommended for shoppers. The market has a multitude of strategies in place to prevent congestion and encourage social distancing. Please make sure to snap a selfie with our fabulous six-foot-long North Memorial Health/Maple Grove Hospital llama. Share it to spread the word about the importance of physical distancing and the fun of the farmers market!

Social distancing is no prob-llama! Snap a selfie with our new market mascot.

You’ll find soap-and-water handwash stations as well as hand sanitizer available for your use in multiple locations throughout the market. Finally, our vendors and staff are self-screening themselves for COVID-19 symptoms each and every day. We hope you’ve developed that habit, as well!

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