During the long cold winter, Terry and I had the privilege of being vendors at the Prior Lake Winter Market. This new endeavor provided local residents with an opportunity to experience the summer Farmers Market feel on a smaller, more intimate scale. Winter Goddess Foods was so well received by the community and the vendors that we were invited to be a part of this year's summer market as well. While this is a major undertaking for our small company, forcing us to divide our resources, the positive energy and good vibes exhibited by the community make it well worth it. So as of next weekend, Winter Goddess Foods will be featured at two farmers markets!
Allow me to bring you a little insight on this flourishing, and vital market.
It began 13 years ago with a woman with a vision. Her dream was to have a market with a primary focus on vendors who not only offer organic and high quality products, but have care and concern about what they bring to the marketplace. Karla Haugen, a veteran vendor of farmers markets and indoor shows all around the Twin Cities Metro made a fateful decision, "We need this in Prior Lake."
With that vision, the Prior Lake Farmers Market was born.
She began by seeking out and recruiting 12 of the best vendors she had worked with in the past. She was able to procure a small place to hold the market; the parking lot of the old Brewberry Coffee Shop. She and the other vendors set up shop and waited for the traffic to begin. She never dreamed that the response from the residence would be so high that the local police had to come to the site and direct traffic.
After the initial success, she took a grassroots approach to grow this new market, even recruiting her own children to pass out fliers and go door to door to let everyone know that Prior Lake now had a new market to call their own. As interest grew, Karla continued to add more and more vendors who were of like mind. People who bring a good feeling and a positive exchange of energy.
"This is not about people focusing on making money," says Karla. "This is about community coming together."
And indeed the Prior Lake community has come together in support of this wonderful market. Now in its 13th year, the Prior Lake Farmers Market has become the place to be, not only for the locals, but for folks all over the Twin Cities as well. Through Karla's drive, persistence and hard work, the market has become part of the local Chamber of Commerce, and enjoys the support of local business, including the Downtown Business Association. Responding to the request of local members of the community, the market has added more producers of fresh produce into its lineup of vendors, as well as new vendors with unique product offerings. But make no mistake, the market in not interested in becoming over large for the sake of growth, but rather, it strives to give residents the best that can be offered.
"I'm more interested in quality than quantity," Karla pointed out. "And great positive energy."
In addition to fresh plants, flowers, food and product merchants, the Prior Lake Farmers Market also features visiting artists from many disciplines displaying everything from pottery and iron work to woven crafts and literary authors. The strains of a variety of music will fill the air as musicians weave their magic to catch the ears of market attendees. A welcoming atmosphere will again fill Main Street as neighbors and strangers come together to enjoy this signal of the return of Spring.
A unique aspect of this market, is what's called the "Market Basket," where donations of products and money are collected from vendors and shoppers, and delivered to residents of the community in times of need. The market has sponsored families who have suffered a job loss, folks who are struggling with a debilitating disease, residents who are hospitalized, or those going through the trauma of the death of a loved one. This care and concern for others is readily evident in the attitude of market participants.
Karla reflects, "Our Farmers market is really in line with how I want the world to be. A place where good, healthy food is readily available, and where people come together and treat each other right."
How can anyone say no to that?
This year, the market has started an email list, where subscribers can get information on market happenings, as well as take advantage of vendor specials offered to insiders only. Sign up information can be found on their website.
The market begins this Saturday, May 10th and runs through October. The hours are from 8 am to noon each Saturday, and it is located in downtown Prior Lake on Main Street, just off Highway 13 and County Road 21. If you're searching for a great place to hang out and shop, I highly recommend that you come on down, grab a cup of coffee or chai, and enjoy this great feel-good market.