Farmers market wants to establish a permanent home in Rochester
The Rochester Downtown Farmers Market has begun planting the seeds for what it hopes will lead to a new permanent, year-round structure. Tonight organizers will host an event at Forager Brewery to share with the public the steps they are taking to bring the vision to life. Ahead of the presentation, we had the opportunity to talk with market manager Jess Joyce.
Q: First, tell us about what you have in the works.
A: Ted Spitzer of Market Ventures Inc. has been commissioned by the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market and Friends of the Farmers Market to conduct a preliminary feasibility study for establishing a permanent structure in Rochester to provide local access to foods grown in our community. During his visit, Ted will analyze current and future permanent farmers market sites in the city and meet with potential new partners and stakeholders to make the permanent market a reality.
Q: Do you have any assumptions going into the feasibility study?
A: Right now, the downtown summer market is at risk of being displaced if a developer takes interest in our site. The market hosts between 30 and 70 independent farm businesses every weekend, with great potential to grow to more days of the week or stay open year-round. We also know that any project of this magnitude may be met with obstacles and funding constraints. As other downtown businesses adjust to growth and changes in our community, we are planning ahead in order to have the flexibility to do the same. Community support is critical!
Q: The market already operates year-round. Why the need for a permanent structure?
A: Yes, our current market is able to operate year-round (in three locations) because many producers, customers, and community partners stand behind it and fight for space, funds, and resources. If given a permanent home, the market has the potential to become a mainstay of vibrancy and health in downtown Rochester. This space creates community, engagement and conversation — bringing together vendors/growers with local customers and visitors. These farm to table relationships are what Rochester residents want and appreciate.
Q: You recently held a charrette exploring possible options. What ideas emerged?
A: With the help of local architects from HGA, we hosted a brainstorming session for our farmers, “regular” customers and community stakeholders to explore key challenges and opportunities for the market. In addition to creating a design mock-up (come to Forager Brewery tonight for the big reveal!), we were able to prioritize our key needs for a permanent home, such as: local-focused, downtown, near public transportation, year-round, green space, flexible indoor/outdoor site with water and power access.
Q: What value would a year-round market provide?
A: Year-round markets in other communities provide a permanent place for farmers and other vendors to serve the local community, expanding the range of available products in an accessible, welcoming space. Permanent structures for farmers' market eliminate the uncertainty associated with open parking lots in variable conditions, and would be a boost for small business owners, growers and vendors who stimulate and care deeply for the local economy. Many communities have seen much greater patronage when they moved from open-air markets to structures. Our summer market is very well attended — moving to a permanent, weather-proof structure could enhance this attendance through our tough Minnesota winters.
Q: What can someone expect attending tomorrow's event? How can they get involved further?
A: The presentation on Thursday night will present some fun developments and the future potential of the farmers market in the context of Rochester’s rapid growth. We will also provide an overview of the critical issues that should be considered when planning to create a permanent market facility, along with examples of successful markets in similarly-sized cities throughout the country. Participants will be able to ask questions and share their ideas for creating a successful year-round market in Rochester. The nonprofit Friends of the Farmers Market is also looking to grow its leadership, so please speak up if you'd like to be part of the process.
Cover: Summer site of the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market / Photo courtesy Flats On 4th