2012 Best Farmer’s Market: St. Paul Farmer’s Market

The farmer’s market: Among the oldest forms of direct-to-consumer sales, these truly urban agoras bring the rural to the city, and exist all around the world in some form or another. They bridge the gap between city and country with commerce, and thus, it was inevitable we at streets.mn would ask readers where their favorite farmer’s market is.

The result was also likely inevitable: The St. Paul Farmer’s Market won, by a handy margin:

2012 Best Farmer's Market

Certainly, we can theorize as to the reasons:
St. Paul Farmer's Market

  • It’s one of the few markets in the Twin Cities that runs year-round, including Saturday Winter Markets and special events during the chill, dark months, ranging from the Wednesday-before-Thanksgiving Turkey Distribution Event, to the Beer Dabbler beer event during the St. Paul Winter Carnival. While Mill City also runs in winter, they run only one Saturday a month during winter, and retreat into the Mill City Museum next door. Not St. Paul! There, you can get your eggs, cheese, meats and other agricultural items not relying on sun and tillable soil every Saturday.
  • The St. Paul Farmer’s Market has strict requirements as to merchandise origin. They are, in fact, quite strict about vendors also being the producers — no middlemen allowed. Products must be local, as well — which relates, obviously, to the ban on middlemen.
  • The number of things you can buy and eat while browsing. Some go for the doughnuts and the bagel sandwiches, but you can also find fried rice, cheddar brats, corn roast (seasonal), soup and a number of other brunchable items to power your shopping experience. (Pro tip: Don’t miss the fresh spring rolls. They’re fantastic.)
  • It’s everywhere. The St. Paul Grower’s Association runs 20 different sites on different days of the week, all over the metro. While most satellite locations are smaller than the main site for the Saturday/Sunday markets in St. Paul, they are also considerably closer to many buyers — Savage to St. Paul is a bit of a hike, for instance. So they bring rural bounty to many neighborhoods, and provide a place for neighbors to shop together.

Now, sure, the main market in St. Paul has its challenges as a market. Between light-rail construction and general St. Paul hijinks, parking and crossing streets to get to the market can be an adventure. Lost suburbanites in large minivans and SUVs (and with double-wide strollers in a market not suited to much more than single-wide anything) create peril to innocents, strolling and munching on their fresh spring rolls. However, it is truly a melting pot, ranging from hippies selling sheep cheese made in caves (really) to Hmong flower farmers growing on rented plots throughout the metro as side jobs, all selling to people across a full range — urban dwellers, SNAP recipients using farmer’s market vouchers, and folks of various ethnicities. The market even offers access to University of Minnesota Master Gardeners, and activities for young children to teach them about farming and nutrition. (Another pro tip: St. Paul, in high season, is terrifying for young children in strollers or wagons, due to the crowd and the amazing view they’ll have primarily of people’s butts.)

In the survey, we also saw a good write-in run for another urban market — the Midtown Farmer’s Market. This weekend market, near the Midtown light-rail stop, is a recent addition to the local farmer’s market scene, but also boasts a strong ethnic ingredient selection and a true slice of the urban Twin Cities.

In summary: Vegetables. Eat ’em. Get them from your local farmer’s market. And tell us: Where is your favorite market, and why?

Streets.mn is a non-profit and is volunteer run. We rely on your support to keep the servers running. If you value what you read, please consider becoming a member.

3 Responses to 2012 Best Farmer’s Market: St. Paul Farmer’s Market

  1. Sam Newberg
    Sam Newberg December 26, 2012 at 3:55 am #

    One strong reason for St. Paul winning is the superior urban setting. Historic warehouses virtually ring the market, and light rail opening in 2014 will add to its accessibility, not to metion help solve some of its parking shenanigans. A new St. Paul Saints ballpark will add a wonderful adjacent public use with myriad ways to connect and relate the two.

    However, I voted for the Midtown Farmers Market because it is a great market and because of the plan for a permanent location – http://www.corcoranneighborhood.org/advocate/advo… on a public plaza next to light rail with 500+ units of housing. The plan is in limbo and needs advocates to push the city council and mayor to make it a priority.

  2. Julie Kosbab December 26, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    I've actually heard some people argue against St. Paul's ambiance, probably because aside from the recent construction for light rail, that area is dead on weekend mornings. While there are several fine watering holes nearby, and Mears Park has some interesting cultural events, the market IS the action on weekends early, and some find the otherwise inactivity a little weird.

  3. Bill Lindeke
    Bill Lindeke December 27, 2012 at 9:49 am #

    st paul needs more people. recent progress is encouraging.

Note on Comments

streets.mn welcomes opinions from many perspectives. Please refrain from attacking or disparaging others in your comments. streets.mn sees debate as a learning opportunity. Please share your perspective in a respectful manner. View our full comment policy to learn more.

Thanks for commenting on streets.mn!