Every Saturday morning, live music and the sounds of vendors selling organic food, drinks and artwork fills Main Avenue in Prior Lake.

When Karla Haugen started the Prior Lake Farmers Market 21 years ago, she aimed to create a gathering place where people could spend time in the community and have opportunities to purchase natural, homegrown products.

The market boasts 40 vendors per week with seating areas, food trucks and music ranging from bluegrass to classic rock.

While Haugen strongly supports buying local and organic foods, she ultimately just loves seeing people engage in the community. Customers chat while grabbing drinks from the coffee booth before moving to take a seat and enjoy the live music. She sees the community aspect this year more than any other.

Saturday mornings bring small businesses along the roads their best traffic of the week. Haugen works with local businesses and sponsors to make the market a truly community-focused event.

TriFusion Acupuncture sponsors the Prior Lake Farmers Market. The business closed for several months during the pandemic and appreciated the market’s commitment to its sponsors, offering events in a safe environment.

“It has been the single biggest boost for my business,” said TriFusion Acupuncture owner and licensed acupuncturist Lauren Drilling. “This market focuses on such high quality, locally produced items. It is truly a space for friends, neighbors and family to come together each week.”

Vendors provide sanitization supplies and seating areas are wiped down between parties.

“I would always err on the side of being cautious so we can provide people with a fun, safe environment that they can hang out with their friends,” Haugen said.

Haugen looks forward to seeing the Prior Lake market grow and develop in real time.

“It’s a very dynamic and unified community of people working together,” she said. “It’s kind of a magical thing, and I feel really, really blessed to be part of the whole process.”

In Carver County, the Downtown Chaska Farmers’ Market opens June 16. This market will host vendors of salsa, wooden art, jewelry and fresh fruits and vegetables.

“Being able to get fresh, local, healthy food is extremely important for our community,” Executive Director of the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce Darren Noble said in a recent press release.

Chanhassen Recreation Supervisor Priya Tandon appreciates the perspective and connective aspect farmers markets bring to the Chanhassen community.

The Chanhassen Farmers’ Market has been volunteer-run for years. Tandon is overseeing the market in an interim role amid a transition to a new volunteer supervisor.

“Farmers’ markets are unique community events in that not only are patrons enjoying and engaging with other patrons, they are also directly engaging with small business owners in their own towns and neighborhoods,” she said. “It can provide perspective beyond the anonymity we typically experience while shopping and visiting larger community events.”

Putting together a layout for the vendors and working with each one to meet their needs is a challenge, Tandon says, aiming to optimize flow of patrons and business for vendors.

Tandon loves browsing goods from various vendors and appreciating the hard work and high quality of the food, flowers, bread, art and numerous other products.

Tandon expects an increase in business from last year due to increased vaccination rates in Minnesota in addition to looser COVID-19 restrictions. Twice as many vendors as years prior also promise to bring in more Saturday traffic.

“Supporting small businesses and giving back to the local community is always important, and especially so during and coming out of a global pandemic that hit small businesses hard,” she said.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.