Fresh produce, vendors, live animals and a bounce house make for an opportune time to visit the Faribault Farmers Market.
For the fifth year in a row, Rice County Public Health — Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP) supports the most highly attended Faribault Farmers Market event of the season — Family Day. This year’s event is 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.
“Each successive year we get more vendors reaching out to us rather than us reaching out to them,” said Rice County SHIP Coordinator Josh Ramaker. “Each year there’s more and more people who come, and it becomes more like a festival.”
Initially marketed as a children’s event, Family Day has expanded its outreach to families as a whole with learning opportunities for youth and adults. The advantage of hosting a health expo at a Farmers Market, said Ramaker, is that customers can not only see and touch the food they eat but also learn how the vendors bring their products from the field to the table.
As opposed to shopping at a grocery store, Ramaker said buying products from a Farmers Market puts customers on track to eat what’s in season. In so doing, he said, “you get in touch with food a bit more and get in touch with what’s being produced and who’s produced it.”
Russ Bauer, who along with his wife, Donna, coordinates the Faribault Farmers Market, said Family Day strengthens the family unit by promoting healthy choices.
“We get the families eating fresh vegetables, which is good for everybody, and it makes for a festive environment,” said Bauer.
Since weather conditions pushed the growing season back, Bauer said the produce vendors usually stop selling at this time are still available in addition to late-season vegetables. Customers can expect squash, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomatoes and cucumbers at the market Saturday.
Children become more involved in the shopping process with market vouchers from Allina Health and Jennie-O Turkey Store. They can also get their faces painted for free, take a photo with the pea and carrot mascots and jump in the bounce houses sponsored by city of Faribault.
Family Day also exposes children — and adults — to various animals, like chicks, ducklings and rabbits. Customers can pet goats, learn what products come from goats’ milk and even try their hand at a milking pump.
In addition to the usual vendors selling fresh produce and baked goods, the Farmers Market Family Day includes one-day vendors promoting their health-related services and products. Customers can play games, win prizes and learn new recipes at the University of Minnesota Extension and 4-H booth, collect goodies and play interactive health games at the Rice County Public Health Child and Teen Checkup booth and learn more about Virtues Project-Faribault and the Faribault Chamber of Commerce.
Representatives from local organizations like District One Hospital, Northfield Hospital & Clinics, Fare for All, Faribault Community School, Rice County Area United Way, River Bend Nature Center and Mayo Clinic Health System will also set up tables to speak with customers.
“We want to make sure we help people see making healthy choices can be easy,” said Ramaker. “That’s really the goal.”