by Eric Hagen
To bring the community closer together, the East Bethel Economic Development Authority (EDA) is considering following a path many other communities have followed by starting a farmers market.
At its last meeting on Jan. 18, the EDA unanimously approved a $600 budget to enroll in two farmers market organizations and to begin research and marketing efforts, according to City Planner Stephanie Hanson.
“It’s a great way to bring the community together,” Hanson said.
It is known that people like to buy fresh produce, she said.
According to Councilmember Heidi Moegerle, who serves as president of the EDA, people also like to know that the produce is locally grown.
“It’s an excellent idea,” said EDA member Mike Conner of having a farmers market in East Bethel. “I’m very supportive of it and hope it happens sooner rather than later.”
It has yet to be determined when an East Bethel farmers market would begin, where it would be located or what would be sold there, according to Hanson. With the EDA’s approval to join the Minnesota Farmers Market Association for $70 per year and Minnesota Grown for $20 per year, it can find out which vendors are out there and start the planning process.
There are many different approaches to take. Hanson talked with the cities of Blaine, Champlin, Isanti, Maple Grove, Princeton, Ramsey and Zimmerman along with the two organizations and the Anoka County Growers Association to ask what it takes to host a market.
City Administrator Jack Davis said having a community farmers market gets back to the city’s goal of branding and marketing East Bethel to prospective businesses.
Speaking of marketing, Hanson said the communities she talked with said the most important component of a successful farmers market is advertising.
East Bethel staff found out that city-run markets are becoming increasingly popular because they can be an economic boost to the local community and they strengthen the sense of community.
Conner prefers the city not use its limited staff resources on organizing and managing the farmers market, preferring that a private group with the resources and experience to manage a farmers market take this on.
Some cities do not run their own farmers market. The St. Paul Farmers Market puts on about two dozen markets throughout the metro area, including such north metro spots as Andover, Hugo and Roseville.
The Andover farmers market takes place on Tuesday afternoons from early May through late October in the Grace Lutheran Church parking lot near the busy intersection of Bunker Lake and Round Lake boulevards.
The parking lot is full every day, said Kris Miller, secretary at Grace Lutheran Church.
Miller thinks the Andover farmers market is a great thing because people are getting fresh produce grown locally and they can meet new people or catch up with friends. One man from the church will bring out ice water on a hot day for thirsty shoppers.
“It’s a meeting place for people,” Miller said. “We get calls from people all the time thanking us for having this. It’s such a great community outreach for people. I love it.”
Moegerle said the city of East Bethel would likely operate the farmers market at first, but a private entity could take over in the future. Booster Day is not organized by the city but by a 501(c)(4) civic group of volunteers, according to Davis. The city provides the park space and the public works crew to help with the set-up and tear-down.
Hanson said the market may start out small in its first year and grow in subsequent years. Whether the market would have a specific product focus remains to be seen, but Hanson assumes there will be a mixture of local produce, crafts and flowers.
The specifics for East Bethel are still being formed, however.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]