Spring is Officially Here! Grand Rapids Farmers' Market Opens!
Grand Rapids' Farmers' Market has opened for the season in a new location, next to the south branch of Grand Rapids State Bank. The market is open Wednesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m. Their new space is right off the intersection of Pokegama Avenue and Golf Course Road.
Early Wednesday morning, as the market was getting set up for the first time this season, Jesse Davis, member of the market and Director of Membership Services for the MN Farmers' Market Association, provided an audio tour of the new site and introduced Northern Community Radio listeners to some vendors.
"We're kind of in a U shape so there's almost like a nice courtyard area. We've got a couple picnic tables there. We've got about 10 vendors setting up. Lots of plants, beautiful greens, baked goods, wild rice, honey, lefse... We've got wild ramps here! There's just a lot of stuff and it feels like spring is finally here in Grand Rapids.
"This new site took a lot of work and a lot of money - none of which was really done by the market. We're really grateful for the Grand Rapids State Bank. They own this spot. It used to be the site of the former Rendezvous Bar which, back in its day, was kind of a rockin' and rollin' sort of place; pool tables, live music, dancing. That has been closed for a while... We've got a 3-year lease here for $1/year... They [Grand Rapids State Bank] drive a hard bargain but we're just thrilled to be here!"
The market has 33 vendors this year. "One of the very first people that you're going to see when you walk in the market is Brynden Lenius of Bryndlewood," says Davis. " She's got just gigantic tomato plants, pepper plants... she's got some beautiful lettuces here, and kale."
Bryndlewood is a small family farm just inside the Grand Rapids city limits. They grow in 3 high tunnels, which allows them to start their planting season early. Besides the lettuce and kale, Brynden brought chard and radishes. For Bryndlewood, planting season starts in February, and plants are put into the ground around April 1. "We are here usually from opening day to closing day," said Lenius.
Jesse Davis also introduced us to Erik Heimark, one of four owners of Maple Ridge Produce in Aitkin. Even before the market had opened, he had already sold some of his fresh-baked cranberry wild rice bread. Erik learned to bake from his mom. He regularly sells "Seeds of Love" bread, a recipe passed down from his mother, along with zucchini dill rye, black Russian rye, and whole wheat. Later in the season, Maple Ridge will offer produce.
The market is rightly proud of its SNAP program, which enables low income families to purchase locally grown food. The Grand Rapids community has come together to offer a matching program. For every SNAP dollar that low income families spend at the market on fresh local food, they get an additional $2 to spend. As Jesse Davis explains, "So their $10 of food assistance turns to $30 of local food. And those farmers - they see that $30. And these are the most loyal customers you could ask for." As a result, the Grand Rapids Farmers' Market has the highest per-vendor SNAP sales of any market in the entire state of Minnesota.