Albert Lea Farmers Market kicking off new season

Published 9:00 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Albert Lea Farmers Market will open for the season Wednesday in the North Broadway parking lot. 

Because of the late start to spring, markets may not have quite as much available for the first month, though Verlys Huntley, a longtime vendor, anticipated asparagus and rhubarb this week, along with baked goods, eggs, some bedding plants, honey, maple syrup, jams, jellies, pickles, other canned goods and craft items. 

Though it is still early in the market season, she said many of the same vendors will be back this year, including one meat producer who was at the market last year. 

“We always welcome new products to the market,” Huntley said. “It’s nice to have a good, diverse market.” 

There will be no COVID-19 restrictions in place when the market opens and people can feel free to come with or without masks as they desire, she said. 

More entertainment and activities are being planned for the market this year through the Parks and Recreation Department and the Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau. People can visit the farmers market Facebook page for entertainment plans throughout the summer as they become known and for information about what types of produce will be available. 

“We’re kind of excited about that,” Huntley said of the entertainment. 

She said people who have Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or EBT benefits will again be able to use their benefits at the market, receiving matching bucks for money spent. She said people with these benefits can get $30 worth of produce for $10 as part of the program, which encourages people to utilize the markets and promotes healthy eating. 

People with vouchers through the Women, Infant and Children’s program and the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program will be able to use them at the market, as well.

Huntley encouraged families with children to take advantage of the Power of Produce program, which gives all children in Freeborn County $2 tokens each time they come to the market that the children can use to pick out produce. 

“That’s really a learning experience for the kids, and it has shown that the kids are more interested in eating the vegetables because they’ve picked them out,” she said. 

People who wish to participate in this program must sign up at the farmers market booth. 

Customers can also come to the market booth if they would like to use a credit card at the market. They essentially pay for a set amount and in exchange, get tokens to use to pay for their items. Vendors later get reimbursed for the tokens.

Freeborn County 4-H is partnering with the market to provide youth with activities related to gardening and healthy foods, with hands-on activities geared toward 5- to 10-year-olds at the market on Wednesdays in June, July and August next to the Power of Produce tent. 

The markets will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and continue through Oct. 29.