Mill City Museum kicks off farmers market exhibit tonight

The Growing Strong exhibit opens tonight at the Mill City Museum
The Growing Strong exhibit opens tonight at the Mill City Museum

With its idyllic location next to one of the best farmers markets in the Twin Cities, perhaps no museum is better suited to hosting an exhibit on "the unique confluence of community aspiration, cultural exchange, and economic activity popularly known as farmers markets" than the Mill City Museum. The "Growing Strong" exhibit is being kicked off tonight with a reception at the museum from 7 to 9 p.m., which will feature live music by Light of the Moon, hors d'oeuvres by D'Amico, and a cash bar.

The lead partner in the exhibit's creation is North Node Consulting, whose mission is to "improve access equity to healthy, local foods, enhance the sustainability of local and small-scale food production, and build collaborative relationships among food systems stakeholders." Founder David Nicholson says, "For a while now we've thought, 'wouldn't it be great to make an exhibit to highlight all the benefits of farmers markets?'"

He explains that out of all the many wonderful products of the sustainability movement, such as farm-to-table restaurants and fresh school lunch programs, "farmers markets get a little less credit for acting as economic engines and community-building engines. It's an unsung role they play, so we thought we'd take a shot at singing it."

Nicholson's consulting group has been partnering with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota (the primary funder for this exhibit), the MN Department of Agriculture, the MN Farmers Market Association and others to to create a statewide system that would allow farmers markets to accept Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) payments, which would increase access to healthy, locally and organically grown produce among low income communities. Currently, only about 24 out of nearly 200 farmers markets in the state accept EBT payments.

The exhibit itself, "Growing Strong: How Farmers Markets Nourish People, Communities, and the Planet," will offer visitors the chance "to explore the contemporary and historic ways that farmers markets serve Minnesota communities," through a combination of photomurals, statistics, and first-person storytelling.

"Growing Strong" will be open to visitors during regular Mill City Museum hours: Tuesdays-Saturdays 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sundays noon-5 p.m. through July 22. The adjacent Mill City Farmers Market opens for the season on Saturday, May 12. The "Growing Strong" exhibit will be resurrected for the Minnesota State Fair, where it will run in the Eco Experience building for the duration of the fair.

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