By Jennifer Kotila
DASSEL, MN “Spring is here, and garden-fresh fruits and veggies are right around the corner,” said Dassel Farmers Market manager Marco Marquez, noting the market has seen steady, sustainable growth since it first opened in 2008.
“This year, we are working with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) in an effort to make healthy, wholesome foods available to more community members,” Marquez said.
The market has applied to the MDA to get the equipment needed to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps, which come on an electronic benefit transfer card (EBT).
“We hope to have this service available for our opening date tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 7 from 3 to 6 p.m.,” Marquez said.
More than 30 farmers markets in Minnesota last year accepted EBT, according to a Minnesota Public News article published August 2012, and the United States Department of Agriculture awarded Minnesota more than $85,000 to expand the number of markets accepting the cards.
With the transition from paper to electronic benefits in the mid-1990s, SNAP purchases at farmers markets declined due to a lack of equipment and technology to accept and process these electronic benefits, according to the USDA.
Funding from the USDA funding is expected to reverse this trend and boost SNAP sales at local farmers markets, according to the USDA.
The Dassel Farmers Market is a great way for residents to support local producers, considering all of its vendors produce their products within a 15-mile radius, many of them within 6 to 10 miles, according to Marquez.
Last summer, there were seven regular vendors throughout the season, and Marquez hopes to bring that up to 10 regular vendors this season, he said.
The market takes place Fridays from 3 to 6 p.m. in Bandstand Park in downtown Dassel on Atlantic Avenue, which Marquez credits for turning the market into a gathering point for local citizens to start their weekend.
“Most farmers markets are in parking lots, but ours is in a park we’re lucky for that,” Marquez added, noting the park has trees for natural shade, benches to sit and relax, picnic tables, a water fountain, and a portable bathroom.
The bandstand in the park is available for nonprofit groups to use during the market to raise money for their causes, Marquez noted.
The location also provides ample parking, and wheelchair accessibility.
Marquez appreciates those who have helped make the farmers market a successful reality in Dassel, such as Red Rooster Foods.
“They could look at the farmers market as competition, but instead, assist us by providing all the bags we need to send the produce home with customers,” Marquez said.
The city of Dassel, Dassel Area Chamber of Commerce, and Kingston Auto have all also helpedInformation about Dassel Farmers Market
A vendors meeting will take place Wednesday, May 8 from 6 to 7 p.m. at the Dassel Community Room at city hall. Those interested in selling their products at the market should plan to attend.
The market is expected to open Friday, June 7.
For more information, contact Marco or Shari Marquez at (320) 275-3037, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Booths are available for $6 per week, or $70 for the season ($3 per week). Vendors are encouraged to sign up for the whole season in order to pick their spot, which will be the same for the entire season, rather than using whatever is available on a weekly basis.