Minneapolis farmers markets now required to have more farmers

Farmers markets in Minneapolis will now require a larger percentage of vendors to be food growers. The City Council recently passed ordinance amendments calling for 60 percent of vendors to be agricultural producers, which includes growers (who sell produce and flowers as well as beef and honey), farm processors (who sell cheeses and meats with additional ingredients added), and wild harvesters of products such as maple syrup and wild rice.

Only 40 percent of vendors may be distributors--25 percent can sell crafts or services, and 15 percent could include other food vendors (including those processing foods at home, distributors reselling foods they didn't grow themselves, and people selling prepared foods cooked and handled on site.) Previously, farmers markets simply required that 75 percent of vendors sell food (local or not).

The changes do not affect the Municipal Market located near Target Field and I-394, but they do apply to the Mill City market and to markets in Uptown, Midtown, Fulton, Kingfield, Northeast, West Broadway, and Nicollet Mall.

The amendments also create a new license type for a produce and craft market, which allows for up to 70 percent of vendors to be non-food-selling vendors.

"I'm not sure that the ordinance itself changes anything remarkably. It more or less codifies and clarifies existing practice," says David Nicholson, board chair of the Kingfield Farmers Market. "The one thing that may have some impact is that it better defines what a farmers market is and what it's not, and hopefully that'll have some influence over how difficult it is for companies or corporations interested in greenwashing to use farmers markets as a marketing tool rather than as what they really are: vehicles for serving great public benefit to vendors and home communities," he says.

Erin Reser from the Mill City Market agreed that the market may not look a lot different to shoppers, but that there would be "a lot more integrity" and "an increase of direct connection from local farmers to consumers." She did express disappointment that a requirement that farmers markets be run by nonprofit organizations did not pass. "The intent of that was to emphasize that markets were there for the common and public good in supporting local agriculture" as opposed to making money without concern for the stakeholders involved.

"I'm a little bit concerned that if we start seeing this as more of a for-profit endeavor it could change some of the culture and approach of the farmers market," Minneapolis City Council Member Cam Gordon says.

"[Although] not all of the changes that we wanted did go through, I think there are some pretty substantive changes that will really strengthen the farmer's market environment in Minneapolis and will have a great effect on local agricultural producers," Reser says, adding that the Mill City market already emphasizes vendor space for producers using local agricultural products but not selling agricultural product directly.

"We wanted to focus in and make sure that it served local growers," City Council Member Gordon said. "I think it has the potential to be a big boost to both producers and consumers."

The amendments also add more flexibility to the mini markets. "It expands the type of vendors mini markets can have," says mini market program coordinator Madeline Kastler. Now we can have local agricultural producers. Not just fruits and vegetables but also meat, cheese, eggs, honey--anything that's produced locally we can now have at our market, and we can also have now a distributor that sells things other than locally grown produce." For example, there is a huge demand for fruit that may not be local or, if local, may now be sold by a distributor rather than just by growers. There is also an allowance for home processors making things like bread, jam, or pickles. In addition, the changes also allow mini markets to have inside events six times a year without applying for another permit. The change will increase the variety of fresh food sold.

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