When your farmers market already has a reputation for a diversity of producers, it’s not always easy coming up with new products and vendors to show you’re not resting on your laurels.
That being said, the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market will open the 2016 summer season on Saturday, May 7, with a few new offerings, from herb and spice mixtures to micro-greens and farmstead cheese to bagels and breads and earthworm castings for the soil.
But as the farmers market begins its 30th season, it also will stick to the simple things that have made the market popular with customers, like the ability to have a conversation with the person who grew the food.
“That’s one really important aspect that you get at the farmers market that you don’t get at the grocery store,” said market manager David Kotsanas. “So it’s really cool the community has the opportunity to meet the people who are growing their food.”
The Rochester market, which starts at 7:30 a.m. and is held in the area of Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue Southeast, will benefit from a good growing season so far, Kotsanas said, so some produce, such as asparagus and mushrooms, will be making an early appearance. But vegetables such as peas and green beans won’t be out until May, and tomatoes will be coming around the middle of June.
On cold, rainy days, the Rochester market draws between 1,500 and 2,000 people and, in peak season during perfect weather, nearly 6,000 people. Ninety-five vendors are registered with the market, and the number present in a given week varies from 50 to 70, depending on the weather and time of season.
The idea of the Rochester farmers market was largely driven by farmers wanting to sell directly to customers. To maintain that focus, vendors must meet two basic criteria: The produce that you are selling was grown by your own hand, and your produce was grown 50 miles within Rochester (and inside the state boundaries). With the exception of a couple of Iowa growers who were grandfathered in, the market has stayed true to those values, Kotsanas said.
Other features that will be present during the summer season will be the BookBike from the Rochester Public Library, the performance of local musicians, chef demonstrations using food from the market, cheer squads and a Kids’ Day.
At its essence, the farmers market is about community, Kotsanas said.
“There is the food, and (the community) is supporting local farmers, and they’re providing nutritious food for the people of Rochester,” he said. “But what it really is, is people coming together and spending the morning together, about the conversations that happen and the relationships that are built.”
If you go
What: 2016 Rochester Downtown Farmers Market’s 30th summer season
When: 7:30 a.m. to noon, Saturdays May 7-Oct. 29.
Where: Fourth Street and Fourth Avenue Southeast