Local food, local money: Farmers markets on the rise

If it grows in the ground, you might just find it at the Medford Farmers Market, or at markets held in Owatonna and Blooming Prairie. (Southern Minn Media photo)

By: Lisa Cownie
October 1, 2017

Looking beyond the grocery store? You’re not alone! It’s a movement that is quietly making its way in to cities and towns across the country.

Farmers’ markets represent an important retail option that can bolster local economies in communities large and small. Driving the niche is the growing demand for fresh, local food. Successful farmers’ markets can strengthen local and regional economies and grow jobs.

According to the nationwide industry group Farmers Market Coalition, for every $100 spent at a farmers’ market, $62 stays in the local economy, and $99 stays in-state. Additionally, the coalition says that growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue. Those that do not sell locally create three jobs per $1 million, they say. And research also shows that farmers’ markets spur spending at neighboring businesses and help increase activity in downtown areas.

That is part of what prompted Steele County’s newest Farmers’ Market in Medford. Held in the middle of downtown, Medford’s market can be found each Thursday, June through October, at Christ the King Church on 2nd Avenue.

“We have excellent visibility in town as we are just off Main Street and there is plenty of nearby parking for customers,” said Jennifer Kath, one of the organizers and a registered dietitian. “Right now, we are a small market and average 15 to 20 vendors weekly. We have an awesome mix of vendors that sell fresh produce, farm-fresh chicken and duck eggs, locally made cheese and honey. We have very talented bakers/artisans selling homemade breads, granola, scones, fruit pies, cookies, cupcakes, macaroons and other various desserts.”

Medford’s isn’t the only farmers market in Steele County, but it is the newest, having had its grand opening June 1 to join markets in Owatonna and Blooming Prairie. Kath says while Medford’s is a young market, the community has been supportive.

“We attract about 100 to 150 customers each Thursday, and most of our customers are from Medford, Owatonna and Faribault,” Kath said. “We are busiest from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. We are a very new market and we’re still getting word out to the community. Thursdays are a very popular time to hold a farmers’ market in Minnesota.”

She says the community has been supportive in other ways as well.

“We received a lot of support from various community organizations like SHIP [Statewide Health Improvement Partnership], who provided us with a grant to help pay for start-up costs and SNAP/EBT equipment,” Kath said.

That last piece, the SNAP/EBT equipment, is a hallmark of Medford’s market.

“The Medford Farmers Market is the only market within a 40-mile radius that accepts SNAP/EBT benefits,” Kath said. “We are working hard to inform the community that at the Medford Farmers Market everyone has the same access to locally produced goods.”

And that is the mission behind the market in Medford: supporting local producers, bringing people downtown to see what it has to offer and keeping the money local. It even goes a little deeper than that for Kath.

“The Medford Farmers Market has a mission: To connect residents of southern Minnesota with local farmers and producers to learn how their food is grown or made, inspiring them to make better food choices to improve their health,” Kath said.

Along with Kath, organizers for the market are Ben and Sarah Halblieb-Hanson, owners of Boundless Roots organic CSA farm, and Tiffany Tripp, owner of GRAISE Farm.

Lisa Cownie brings experience that spans all medias, including two decades of writing and editing. Lisa currently produces and hosts a “Hometown Business Connection” segment on KEYC News 12 in Mankato and is Editor of Connect Business Magazine in Nicollet. 


Vendors at the Medford Farmers Market include:

Boundless Roots – fresh organic produce and canned goods

GRAISE Farm- local organic chicken and duck eggs

Balzer Honey Farm – locally sourced honey, produce and chicken eggs

Kris’ Cupcakes – homemade scones, macaroons, fruit pies, cream puffs

Cassie’s Breads – assorted homemade breads including stuffed cheese bread, foccia, Japanese Milk bread, homemade pretzels, and cookies

Kath Gardens – Homemade granola with Protein Bites

Nora B’s – various desserts including cookies, bars, cupcakes

CannonBelles Cheese – large variety of cheese curds, Gouda, Queso Fresco, White Cheddar

Straight River Farm – locally grown fruit including strawberries, apples, watermelons, raspberries, blueberries

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Forge Steele County

135 W. Pearl Street
Owatonna, MN 55060