As the snow flies, it makes me sad for a variety of reasons: the layers of clothing for those catering runs, the buckets of ice-melt to protect customers on the sidewalks, and the end of a season of fun across the street at the Hub Food Park.

This past summer many of you probably saw the “hub” of activity in Old Town, including food trucks, local farmers, live music, and all-around fun. This year, we were very lucky to have the Mankato Farmers’ Market in Old Town every Thursday afternoon. This meant our kitchen crew could dash across the street to purchase locally grown food from other small business owners.

I know firsthand how amazing it feels when someone buys something from you as a small business owner. It warms your soul, makes your day, and lifts your spirit.

Better on Many Levels

For those of you who don’t know, buying local is more than a catchy phrase. Buying local means more money stays within our community. Every dollar you spend at a local business generates twice as much income for the local economy.

Local produce is fresher and tastes better. I love knowing the people that grow the food. I have a relationship with these folks and feel connected to them.

I also buy local because I know that when I purchase from someone in town, that person comes into Wooden Spoon and spends some of that money. Or, that person sends their kids to a local child care facility, possibly where we cater food. Or, that person gets food at another local business, like Curiosi-Tea House, who buys our products for their customers. So, purchasing locally creates a closed loop of support.

I know firsthand how amazing it feels when someone buys something from you as a small business owner. It warms your soul, makes your day, and lifts your spirit.

How does the Farmers’ Market fit in?

Those hard working farmers are small business owners and provide an amazing public value, beyond the colorful produce and amazing service. When you shop at a farmers market you stimulate our local economy and often support sustainable growing practices, which is better for our environment. And seriously, the produce tastes better.

So, why am I talking about this as we close out another season of the Farmers’ Market? How does this matter as we get our first layer of snow? Because we need to do better to support our local farmers markets.

We need to do better to support our local farmers markets.

A High Priority

Mankato’s Farmers’ Market is one of the best in the state. It is a huge asset for our community, and I want to challenge our community members to work with local governments to support increased infrastructure to make sure our farmers can grow and thrive in the years to come.

We need a permanent place dedicated to a farmers market. I travel a lot for my day job. Towns across the Midwest have invested in pavilions, shelters, parking structures and walkways for farmers markets. Many are not as large as Mankato — I have been to a lot of small communities who have prioritized spaces for local farmers and other vendors.

Here’s How You Can Help

Here are some practical steps we can implement to help prioritize our farmers market.

  • Follow local farmers on social media. Like and share their posts.
  • Sign up for a CSA and shop the Farmers’ Market.
  • Buy local produce at the grocery stores and request local produce options.
  • Choose restaurants that source foods locally.
  • Plan your menus around what is in season.
  • Talk to our policy makers about how we need to support our local farmers and the Mankato Farmers’ Market.

Lara and Dan Zimmerli own Cedar Crate Farm, one of the vendors at the Mankato Farmers’ Market. Dan has started the conversation with stakeholders in our community about a permanent structure in Mankato. For more information on how to get involved, contact Dan at Cedar Crate Farm.

We can do this! We can start now!

Natasha Frost
Natasha is the owner of Wooden Spoon, a restaurant in the heart of Old Town Mankato. She is also a public health lawyer at a national non-profit. Natasha identifies as a cisgender, able-bodied white woman and an alcoholic in active recovery.