Albert Lea Farmers Market opens Saturday

Published 9:33 am Friday, May 13, 2011

The Albert Lea Farmers Market will open Saturday for its first day of the season with even more excitement planned for the summer than in year’s past.

Verlys Huntley, president of the Albert Lea Farmers Market board of directors, said 25 to 30 vendors have already signed up to be a part of the market — including some new vendors — and she expects that number to grow as the season develops.

The farmers market takes place in the North Broadway Avenue parking lot, next to the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center in downtown Albert Lea. It is open from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.

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“It looks like a really exciting year,” Huntley said. “We’re going to be doing a lot of new and exciting things.”

Because the area has experienced a late spring season, produce may be a week or two behind schedule; however, there’s still lots that people will be able to find, she said.

On Saturday, people will be able to find rhubarb, vegetable plants and flowers for sale, along with jams, jellies, pickles, meats, eggs, baked goods and other craft items.

She noted that asparagus, radishes, lettuce, spinach and green onions might be a week or two late.

New this year at the market will be a scanning machine equipped to handle credit and debit cards, SNAP vouchers and EBT transactions.

Huntley said there will be one person in charge of the machine. When a card is scanned, people will be given wooden tokens to use to purchase items.

People can get cash back when using credit or debit card tokens, but not when using EBT tokens.

She said there will also be a handwashing station at the market this year.

“Since we are serving food up there and samples, we thought it was really, really smart to have that up there,” Huntley noted. “The public can use that along with the vendors. That’s recommended for markets to have that there.”

In addition, there will be more cooking demonstrations, including local chef demonstrations, along with canning classes for people new to canning.

There will also be a market manager.

The Albert Lea Farmers Market, together with the Austin Area and North Iowa farmers markets, have formed the nonprofit Local Food Campaign, with a focus on bolstering quality locally grown food products. It bands together local growers, potential buyers and aims to educate consumers and producers, recruit new farmers and promote locally produced food. The organization’s efforts are being funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The farmers market has also developed a website at where people can visit to learn more about the market. The group can also be found on Facebook.