The Veterans Harvest Market that started in 2016 but halted at the end of last season returned to Prior Lake earlier this month at Tractor Supply Co. with a new name.
The Little Market that Could, created by veterans charity organization Smoke Signals, serves as an outlet for local vendors and Power of Produce, the Minnesota program to help many Minnesotan kids and seniors access healthful food.
“We saw the need,” said Smoke Signals co-founder Rosemary Frank. “We know that food deprivation is running rampant. We had a good network of people in Prior Lake to make it happen.
“Smoke signals are one of the oldest forms of communication,” Frank added. “When the call was made, people came out. We’re pretty darn excited.”
About 12 percent of Minnesotan households are food-insecure, or do not have consistent access to fresh food, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Unsold produce at the Little Market that Could on June 20 was donated to local food shelves.
Dozens of passersby and patrons on June 20 also encountered dancing clowns, flashy cars, brick-oven pizza and a number of local vendors showing off produce, homemade treats, decorations and more despite a little rain in the area.
Among the vendor tents was that of Brenda Dotzler, who makes decorations and accessories from recycled items like books and guitar strings. She was also selling snacks that day, including various forms of peanut brittle. Smoke Signals co-founder Sheldon Bryant, who’s also a clown, was there representing Clowns Across the River.
The market will be open 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays through Oct. 10.
Veterans Harvest Market began as a veteran fundraiser by Colleen Callahan and the Smoke Signals team but stopped last fall due to a lack of VFW volunteers, Suzie McNeal with the post said.
“The VFW didn’t have the resources (to continue the market) as they do things like breakfast fundraisers, dinners, that kind of thing,” Callahan said. “It was just beyond their capacity.”
This is the market’s first year in the supply company parking lot. The business partnered with Smoke Signals to host the event each Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. until Oct. 10. Volunteers will pitch in every week.
Smoke Signals collects used wheelchairs, walkers and scooters to donate to veterans with its Ride for Mobility program, among other projects.
“Today we have about 22 volunteers,” Frank said. “That’s because of the rain. People have other lives, someone might get ill, so you have to pinch hit and ad lib it. We’re always looking for more help.”
Those wanting to volunteer for the Little Market that Could or for Smoke Signals can visit smokesignalsgives.org.
“We’re completely volunteer-based,” Frank said, adding vendor fees and sponsors help support the program.
Frank said she gathered volunteers and vendors by word of mouth and door-knocking. The initial partnership between herself and Callahan came just after the end of the Veterans Harvest Market last year.