Seasonal produce is the backbone of a farmers market, and while there isn't much that grows during a Minnesota winter, that doesn't mean there aren't quality local goods to be purchased during the winter months.
Winter farmers markets can be found all across the Twin Cities Metro and are a safe way to get out of the house, meet up with a friend and support local business.
"It's a great sense of community and people gathering together to support small business and buy local — all those things you want to continue into the winter market," said Karla Haugen, owner of the Prior Lake Farmers Market.
After a successful summer season, Haugen revived Prior Lake's winter market this fall after a few dormant years.
“This year, with so many activities and events being closed, and then just my feeling that we really needed to help support local business, I decided to do the winter market,” Haugen said in November.
Instead of rows of fresh greens and ripe fruits, the stalls at winter farmers markets are filled with more perennial goods, such as meats, cheeses, jams and jellies, salsas and hot sauces, granola, maple syrup, fresh baked goods, coffee, local art and artisanal crafts.
Less vendors, smaller crowds and ultimately more open space make winter farmers markets an attractive activity this season, amid the pandemic.
"Everything is pretty much downsized," said Mao Lee, manager of the Minneapolis Farmers Market. That said, the Minneapolis market, located near Target Field, has seen increased crowds so far this winter.
"I think that's attributed to the weather and to COVID," Lee said. "All summer long we have been trying to get the message out that local businesses, small business, small farmers — people in those businesses need your support."
But winter farmers markets don't only help struggling vendors, they're also beneficial to the visitors.
"People come in and realize this is a way to be out and about, take pictures ... just the fact that they're able to be outside and enjoy time with family and friends instead of being stuck at home," Lee said.
In Prior Lake, Haugen said the farmers market has been a healthy way for people to stay in touch with their community while staying socially distanced.
"We need to find places of connection in the world right now," she said. "I think right now there is plenty of division, so any things we can do to bring us together, I think are very important."
Farmers markets can be found across the Twin Cities Metro this season. Here are some of the most popular venues:
- Mill City Farmers Market, 704 S 2nd St., Minneapolis. Indoor/outdoor, 10 a.m. to noon, Jan. 9, Feb. 13, March 13 & 27, April 10 & 24. More information: www.millcityfarmersmarket.org.
- Minneapolis Winter Farmers Market, 312 E Lyndale Ave. N, Minneapolis. Outdoor, 9 a.m. to noon, Jan. 9 & 23, Feb. 6 & 20, March 6 & 20, April 3, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25. More information: www.mplsfarmersmarket.com.
- Neighborhood Roots Outdoor Market (Fulton, Kingfield and Nokomis markets), 4901 Chowen Ave., Minneapolis. Outdoor, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 16, Feb. 20, March 20, April 17. More information: www.neighborhoodrootsmn.org.
- Northeast Winter Market, 629 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis. Outdoor, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Jan. 2, Feb. 6, March 6, April 3. More information: www.northeastfarmersmarket.com.
- Prior Lake Winter Farmers Market, Southlake Village Mall, Prior Lake. Indoor, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 13, March 6 and April 3. More information: www.priorlakefarmersmarket.com.
- St. Paul Farmers Market, 290 5th St. E, St. Paul. Outdoor, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays through April 17. More information: www.stpaulfarmersmarket.com.