Area residents will have a place to go to support small businesses as they sell their locally produced foods and farm-derived products beginning Saturday.
The Cannon Valley Farmers Market, formerly known as Faribault Winter Farmers Market, begins this Saturday from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Faribo West Mall. The mall’s large space will allow for social distancing, according to market founder, farmer and co-manager Tiffany Tripp.
Cannon Valley Farmers Market will run every Saturday through Dec. 19 on the north side of the mall. From January through March, the market will be held every third Saturday of the month. Weather permitting, the market will move to the Rice County Fairgrounds for April 17 and May 15, 2021.
For some vendors the market is a welcome chance to make some money after other streams of revenue have become less dependable due to the pandemic. While some venues for vendors were canceled this year, Farmers markets have still been allowed to continue.
“(The Minnesota Department of Agriculture) made sure that Farmers markets were exempt under any rules, so essentially farmers markets are held to the same rules as grocery stores,” Tripp said.
Twenty vendors are currently registered to participate, with both returning vendors and new vendors from Medford, Faribault, Northfield, Dundas and other locations across the Cannon Valley area. The market was renamed this year as a way to be more inclusive to the vendors within the market, which sees vendors within the region up to 50 miles away, Tripp said. Vendors will be selling baked goods, eggs, sauces, pickles, honey, pasture-raised pork, grass-fed lamb and beef, cheese, pesto, goat milk soap, wool yarn, wool bedding, jams and cheese, among other items.
This will be Julie Johnson’s second time as a vendor, bringing products from her Cannon River Fiber Farms to sell. After participating in the Northfield market for a couple of years, Johnson decided to give the Faribault market a go. She and her husband have a 60-acre piece of land north of Northfield where they raise angora goats for mohair and alpha for fiber products.
With the pandemic, Johnson said selling her wool products has been tough, adding that the pandemic has stifled her opportunities to get out and sell in the community.
“We do sell products online, but people want to feel their yarn before they buy it, so it’s pretty tough to sell if you’re not selling face to face,” Johnson said.
Soon the Cannon Valley Farmers Market will be up and running and Johnson is looking forward to selling in the market once again.
Besides contributing to the local economy, buying local products can be an environmentally friendly alternative to grocery shopping. Not only do consumers know exactly where their products are coming from, but buying local also cuts down on transportation costs, energy, fuel consumption and air pollution.
“It feels like, at this time in our lives, people are understanding more and caring more about where their products come from, whether they’re food or fiber or wood or ceramics,” Johnson said.
Other reasons why someone might prefer to buy local foods and products include the freshness factor. Local foods don’t have to travel as far to get to the dinner plate, so they tend to be more fresh. Other consumers might choose to eat more locally and sustainably because they feel it’s beneficial to their own health, Tripp said.
“There’s a lot of different reasons why people buy local and why I think that it’s important to buy local and all of those are important to me and to the people who do seek out local food,” Tripp said.
The market’s origins
Wanting to partner with a nonprofit to create a more stable future for the market, Tripp reached out to the Cannon River Chapter of Sustainable Farming Association (SFA) for management assistance. With more hands on deck to help manage the market, the market’s future looks bright, Tripp said. The market is now run by a committee of five, including vendors and non-vendors. SFA is a 501c3, which means that the market can now apply for grants and get sponsorships to fund special events and activities.
To maintain visitor safety, COVID-19 guidelines will be in place at the market. Since it’s indoors, masks are required per the governor’s mandate and social distancing will be enforced. Additionally, product samples will not be allowed this year and food and beverages are to be consumed off the market premises.
This will be the first year the market is held at the mall, which will allow good traffic flow, room for social distancing and space for vendors to spread out. The building’s high ceilings, large aisles and several entrances and exits worked well for the committee’s needs.
“We sought out a larger space, the previous location was a great location downtown at the Paradise Center for the Arts, but it was very crammed,” Tripp said. “Even without COVID we were looking for a larger space because we didn’t have room to grow.”
Tripp put out the call for vendors a while ago, adding that many vendors were happy to return after the uncertainty the pandemic has caused. Many of the market’s vendors are smaller businesses that don’t have many opportunities to sell in larger markets.
“So it really becomes a main income source for a lot of them,” Tripp said, adding that many of the businesses build up a clientele through their interactions at the local market.
Johnson is looking forward to interacting with her customers safely again. Having already participated in one Farmers market in Northfield during the pandemic, Johnson said customers have been very respectful and careful in maintaining a safe environment. She says she is grateful for the opportunity to sell once again.
“I think the silver lining is this will help us be sustainable next year and the year after and the year after,” Johnson said of the various obstacles the pandemic has posed.