Weekend Fun at the Mill City Market

I had a fun and educational time at the Mill City Farmers Market on Saturday, chatting it up with Marjorie Hegstrom, the Director of the Market. Arriving at the Market at 6:30 am - just before the first of several rain showers - I was able to watch as farmers and food artisans (who had arrived as early as 5:30 am) set up their shops in anticipation of the crowd. I was lucky to be there with Mette Nielsen, expert photographer and local food enthusiast, who took the pictures you see here.

Marjorie - smart, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and a month away from maternity leave - has been with the Mill City Farmers Market since it was founded in June of 2006 by Brenda Langton (chef/owner of Spoonriver and Cafe Brenda), John Crippen of the Mill City Museum, and Farm in the City (where Marjorie worked at the time). Marjorie spoke about the market’s application process, the fact that “certified organic is not always the gold standard” in local food (”integrated pest management” is justifiable cause for using some chemicals on a local, sustainable farm), and her underlying belief that “the [business] person trying to sustain a business is a big part of sustainability too.” The Mill City Market is aware - and proud - of its reputation as a great place to bring your family, and Marjorie considers their educational bent (they teach classes on food seasons, preparations, etc.) critical to their mission and their success. I was surprised to learn that food producers and sellers pay the market only $30/week for their spots, plus a $50 annual fee. If not for the extensive waiting list, I might have signed up to sell my own strawberry-rhubarb cobbler (okay, I “borrowed” the recipe from The Birchwood) each Saturday for the rest of the summer.

Even before it opens at 8:00 am, the market is bustling. Marjorie expertly fielded questions from interns helping set up a food demonstration (peas were featured on Saturday) and vendors setting up shop, staying level-headed and calm even as one of the shop owners decided to pack up shop before 8:00 am, sure that the rain was going to keep her customers away.

I was grateful to spend some time with Marjorie at the Market, and also happy to have the chance to catch up with Ann from Local D’lish, to discuss the finer points of harvesting ramps with Pam from Prairie Hollow Farm, and to sample single source buckthorn honey from Ames Farm. I even had a chance to grab some terrific, spicy Easter Radishes on my way out. Highly recommended.

This post has been proudly submitted to Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays.