photo-1452804882841-573355623310.jpgWhen is the last time you tasted a fruit or vegetable that came directly from a farm? How long has it been since you ate something that wasn’t processed with chemicals or preservatives? The next time you drive by a roadside vegetable stand or farmers market, top and take a look around. Pick up a fresh ear of corn or a newly picked tomato and see if you notice a difference from that found at the grocery store. If you do, you will never look at processed food the same.

Farmers markets are becoming increasingly popular as society becomes more focused on eating healthy. While it may seem like a recent phenomenon, traditional farmers markets have existed since our ancestors, when farmers would gather, typically in the town square, to trade their excess harvest. Times have changed, however, and participants in today’s farmer’s markets are as concerned about providing a healthy product as they are with making a profit.

Whistle Stop Farmers Market:

Located at Whistle Stop Park in Dilworth. Open Thursdays from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm.

The greater Red River Valley is home to several different farmers’ markets. In Dilworth, the Whistle Stop Farmers Market has provided the eastern valley with fresh produce for five years. Currently run by original founder Cheryl Steze, the market includes farmers from Moorhead, Glyndon, Dilworth, and Hawley. “Our goal is to offer fresh healthy produce to our neighborhood and community,” Steze explained.

In regards to farmers markets and healthy food in general, the cost can be an issue. Unfortunately, fresh food is often more expensive than that which is mass produced. According to Steze, however, this isn’t the case at Whistle Stop. “I haven’t done a comparison, but vendors say prices are comparable,” she said. “The vendors don’t outprice each other; they get together and discuss prices collaboratively.”

One thing that separates Whistle Stop from any other area farmers market is that it is located next to the city’s historical NP 1068 L-9 locomotive. “The locomotive makes the atmosphere fun and attractive,” Steze said.

Red River Market:

Located at Broadway and 4th Avenue North in Fargo. Open Saturdays 10:00am to 2:00 pm. Website: www.redriver.market

The Red River Market is the area’s newest farmers market. In fact, this is their first season as an official farmers market. According to Market Manager Katie Preston, the market began as a response to an apparent food desert downtown, which refers to the lack of access to purchase grocery items in the downtown area.

The Red River Market began with 15 vendors. Organizers received very positive feedback, so they expanded the market to include over 45 vendors. “We are committed to bringing locally grown and made foods to the community of Fargo-Moorhead, which is explicit in our mission statement, so all of the products sold at the market come from within a 200-mile radius of the metropolitan area,” Preston explained. That mission statement? “To create a space for all community members to experience the joys of locally produced food.”

For Preston, the popularity of the market comes from the pendulum shift towards healthy and mindful eating. “There is definitely heightened awareness about healthy eating but also increased awareness regarding where produce comes from, which go hand-in-hand with one another,” she explained. “In addition to the nutritional benefits of the items sold at the market, consumers also get a chance to meet the people who grow and make food, which builds a stronger connection with not only the food but also the community.”

The Red River Market has secured a few partnerships that organizers are very excited about. “We offer free bus rides to and from the market on MATBUS from 9am-3pm on Saturdays,” Preston said. “Our market also accepts SNAP benefits, and we have a double bucks program with CassClayAlive where spending $10 in SNAP will get you $20 to spend at the market.”

Farmers Market at Dike East Park:

Located at West Acres Mall in Fargo. Open Tuesdays, Thursdays & Saturdays from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Although the Farmers Market at Dike East Park has been a long-time player in the area’s farmers market scene (going on 30+ years), it is no longer located at Dike East Park. The name has stayed the same, but the location had to be changed because of the city’s flood protection efforts. 2016 will be their second summer at West Acres.

The produce you will find at this farmers market is as fresh as it gets. According to member Austin Wittmier from Bill Erbes Farms, the market was originally known as the Great Plains Produce Association and that group made a rule that mandates all products need to originate within sixty miles of Fargo/Moorhead so that consumers know exactly what they are getting. “Customers want to be educated about what they are eating and where it is from,” Wittmier said. “More questions are being asked.”

The move to West Acres has been positive for the farmers market. “We have much more visibility than we did down at the dike,” Wittmier explained. That increased visibility will lead to more customers discovering the advantages of farmers markets. “If you have never experienced fresh, locally grown produce, stop and ask questions to the growers,” he encouraged. “Experience the fresh locally grown food; you don’t know what you are missing.”

These three markets are not the only ones in the area by a long shot. A complete list of farmers markets in North Dakota can be found at www.ndfarmersmarkets.com. Information on Minnesota markets can be found at www.minnesotagrown.com

 

 

By Jamee Larson