By Mara Wack, Development and Administrative Manager for Neighborhood Roots

“Farmer’s Markets don’t just happen,” was the 2022 National Farmers Market Week campaign slogan. This phrase resonated with farmers markets across the country, including our neighborhood markets in South Minneapolis.

Neighborhood Roots is a 501(c)(4) non-profit that operates three neighborhood farmers markets in South Minneapolis: Fulton, Kingfield, and Nokomis Farmers Markets. Neighborhood Roots also organizes a series of Winter Markets at the Lyndale Bachman’s greenhouse during the cold winter months.

As you may know, the Nokomis Farmers Market had to take a break in 2022 due to financial constraints. Community support is allowing us to bring the market back this year. This is exactly why farmers markets need your continued support.  

Each market has its own unique name, location, and vibe, and they're all about bringing people together to buy, eat, and learn about local food. These markets are also a vital source of support for small businesses and local farmers, and promote a vibrant community that thrives on local products.

Lisaviole Organic Farm sells their produce at the Kingfield Farmers Market in 2022. Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Roots.

One of the best things about the markets is our commitment to making fresh and healthy food accessible to everyone. That's why we accept SNAP-EBT and WIC at all our farmers markets and even partner with Hunger Solutions to provide a SNAP incentive that triples your SNAP-EBT dollars.

If you're on a tight budget or need a little help putting healthy food on the table, you can count on Neighborhood Roots to have your back.

We know that farmers markets are one of the most amazing places to grab fresh, organic, and delicious food and locally produced items such as pottery, jewelry, textiles, soaps, and lotions. But have you ever stopped to think about the behind the scenes effort it takes to run a market, let alone three separate markets?

One of the biggest struggles farmers markets face is operations costs. From rent to utilities, insurance, licenses and permits, marketing, and staffing, the costs add up quickly. And let's be honest: these markets are not run by some big corporation, but rather by hardworking individuals who put their heart and soul into making it happen.

You might be thinking, "Don't vendors pay a stall fee that covers these expenses?" Farmers markets are committed to providing a platform for local farmers and vendors to sell their products at a fair price, which means we don't want to price out the vendors that our customers have grown to love. Raising stall fees significantly above what we currently charge would not be fair to these vendors. We also want to provide a space to incubate small and growing businesses.

Tomatoes for sale at the Kingfield Farmers Market along Nicollet Avenue. Photo courtesy of Neighborhood Roots

The truth is, vendor stall fees only make up about half of our organization's operating expenses, and the rest needs to be secured through sponsorships, grants, and individual donations. That's why it's essential to support your local farmers market, not only by buying fresh and healthy produce but also by sponsoring, donating or volunteering.

Business sponsorships are a critical part of our ability to keep our farmers markets up and running.

In the past, we received upwards of $50,000 in business sponsorships annually, which covered a significant portion of our operating expenses. When COVID-19 showed up in 2020, everything changed.

The economic downturn caused by the pandemic forced many businesses to tighten their belts and make sacrifices, including reducing or ending their sponsorships. As a result, we saw a dramatic decrease in our business sponsorships.

Our annual sponsorships fell to a total of $6,000.  That's a huge hit for us, and it's made it much harder to keep the Neighborhood Roots markets running. Unfortunately, this reduction in funding has had a ripple effect. It ultimately led to the difficult decision to pause the Nokomis Farmers Market in 2022. It wasn't a decision that we made lightly, but we simply didn't have the resources to keep that market going at the level that our community deserves.

The financial struggles of farmers themselves can also impact farmers markets. Many small-scale farmers struggle to make ends meet, and this can make it difficult for them to participate in farmers markets. As a result, farmers markets may have fewer vendors and a smaller selection of products, which leads to a smaller turnout of customers. Fewer customers in turn lowers vendors’ sales. It’s a true chicken or the egg scenario, no pun intended.

That's why it's crucial for our community to support local farmers markets. By shopping at farmers markets, we're directly supporting our local farmers and small businesses, who in turn are able to provide us with fresh, healthy, food and locally-sourced products. When we shop at farmers markets, we're working to create a sense of community, and we're helping to build a sustainable local food system.

It’s more important than ever to support your local farmers markets. By doing so, you're not only supporting local farmers and small businesses, but you're also investing in your community.

Make sure to visit our website and sign up for our newsletters to get information on all market happenings, including ways to support and weekly updates on what you will expect to see at our markets that week.

Our last Winter Market is March 11 from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. at the Lyndale Bachman’s Greenhouse.

Our outdoor market season begins late May. See below for market details:

Fulton Farmers Market

49th St & Chowen Ave S

Saturdays May 20 - October 28

8:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Kingfield Farmers Market

4055 Nicollet Ave

Sundays May 21- October 29

8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Nokomis Farmers Market

5167 Chicago Ave

Wednesdays June 14 - September 27

4:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. in September