They might not look like it, but Minneapolis farmers markets are struggling

Neighborhood farmers markets, musicians playing guitars, and shoppers sniffing home-made soap casually seem like a low-budget affair.

But a low budget doesn’t mean no budget, and many of Minneapolis’ most popular community farmers’ markets are at risk of closing or have closed because the financial contributions necessary to keep them running are shrinking.

“We should be done (fundraising) now. We’re not even halfway there,” Sarah Knoss, Northeast farmers market manager, said earlier this month.

Loud blues music, ruddy rhubarb stalks and parents pushing strollers make the market financially strained every Saturday morning Parking lot at St. Boniface Church near University Avenue NE and 7th Street.

Northeast Farmers Market Shaky, but not the only one struggling with dwindling donations.will be less and less this year’s market in Minneapolis and surrounding communities. Some, like the Nokomis market, were unable to raise the necessary funds to reopen.

Typically, by mid-May, the Northeast market has raised $25,000.This year, they haven’t counted half quantity.

“It’s really worrying when the target isn’t that high and we can’t even hit it,” said Julie Huang, Northeast Markets board member and owner of the dried salmon business.

Organizers cited numerous reasons. Marketplace’s 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status does not allow donors to write off gifts. The end of federal stimulus checks has put some small businesses in catch-up mode.

Almost everyone pointed to society’s perception of the pandemic.

Ryan Pesch, an extension educator in Ottertaire County at the University of Minnesota, said: “I think there’s been a ‘wall-off’ attitude throughout the pandemic that has people saying, ‘Yeah, farmers markets are very Important’.” “Right now, everyone is out of the pandemic. It’s a little bit unstable right now.”

For some longtime sponsors of the Northeast Farmers Market, the slump in giving has prompted them to increase their donations. Owner Daniel Mays said Stinson Wines, Beer & Spirits, a long-term sponsor, has experienced “different aspects” of the pandemic than its in-house restaurant.

“We’re really busy,” Mays said. “As a result, we put more emphasis on strengthening our support because we know there are places where we can’t give as much.”

But organizers don’t expect a single business to make up for the drop in support.

Neighborhood Roots is a nonprofit organization that operates three small farmers’ markets in Minneapolis. Erin Swenson-Klatt, vice chair of the board, said her organization raised $50,000 in business sponsorships in 2018. Last year, they raised just $10,000.

“Many small businesses have been hit hard by the pandemic and need to retreat,” Swenson-Klatt said.

Last year, Neighborhood Roots laid off staff and closed Nokomis Market. They hope to reopen in 2023.Surprisingly, many organizers say funding challenges For some suppliers, two iconic years followed.

Yuri Jervis He and his wife, Ivette, run Atacama Catering in the Northeast Market, selling spicy empanadas and pastries with Chilean influences.During the epidemic, Yuri Business is “super good,” he said.

Even in wet growing conditions, many suppliers are optimistic.

“We’ve only just started growing our plants,” says Kristy Yang, who translates to her mother Shelley in Hmong. At the height of the season, their stand will sell a colorful array of beets, carrots, green onions, cilantro, cucumbers and tomatoes from farms near Rosemont. “Our grandmother has been here for 10 years, and she got us involved.”

Down the aisle, under a red sign that reads “Foley Farms,” ​​Tania Kostenko, an immigrant from Ukraine, stands proudly in front of a row of bundles of asparagus.

“This is just the beginning,” said Kostenko, who named the fruits and vegetables she will soon be carrying: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, sweet corn and cantaloupe. “It’s going to be four tables.”

According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers selling directly to customers in Minnesota has exploded, with 3,500 farms now.

Ten years ago, at North East Market, they could park their cars in the St. Boniface parking lot. Now, with more than 100 vendors, the event draws as many as 2,000 people to the neighborhood – and cars must be parked on the street.

Buyer behavior has also changed since shoppers bought items and left quickly in the early stages of the pandemic.

“Right now, there’s going to be more browsing, hanging out, just being here,” Knos said.

Suppliers pay for the maintenance of the market, electricity and warehouses. But the market also has some unseen costs, such as paying childcare workers and musicians. Rent the church parking lot. advertise. Knos’ own salary.

On the morning of Saturday, May 14, the wind blew through the tent.

“That tent was $200,” Knos said.

Most market promoters who spoke to The Star Tribune believe the city’s largest farmers markets — like the Mill City Farmers Market — will continue to thrive.

However, even Martha Archer, executive director of the Mill City Farmers Market, said donations from the market’s major sponsors have dropped recently.

“We’re staying open during the pandemic. So people are seeing money changing hands,” Archer said. “This city has so much to fund.”

While the larger market eye is withdrawing from the food program, some community markets are at risk of closing.

Tracy Roy and Evra Ace Sit on a bench near the glass-encased Virgin Mary figurine and eat Indian food.Roy There was a habanero in the grocery bag at her feet.

“I’ve been to other farmers’ markets, like the Great Market off Highway 94,” Esse said. “But I like the smaller ones because you can see everyone and relax a bit.”

Organisers believe that if more people learned about the money it takes to run a community marketplace, they might donate.

“Every farmer’s market is in a precarious position now compared to three years ago,” Swenson-Clutter said. “Even if you can’t see it.”

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