A block party for more than Kingfield

When you volunteer many hours to anything, you get a little protective of it — and sometimes that instinct turns a bit weird.

Earlier this month, Phyllis Louise Harris, a writer for St. Paul-based Asian Pages, did a very nice roundup of farmers markets that included Kingfield’s. Harris likened us to “… something like a Sunday morning neighborhood block party with more crafts and canned pickles and preserves, than fresh produce this early in the season.”

Reading this, I groaned. While Martha’s pickled okra and Jerry’s spicy pickled carrots are to die for, and we love our craft vendors, our board has worked feverishly to make sure we have lots of straight-from-the-farm food for sale. We have lettuce, radishes, beets, onions and herbs right out of the chute, and by the time you read this, we should have some big-time veggies like corn (early this year!) with peppers, tomatoes, etc. close behind. For our four-month-plus peak season, you can do most of your week’s shopping at the market.

Because we limit our growers to Minnesota and border areas, we don’t have a lot of veggies at our May markets. Limiting the geography of our growers is a philosophical decision, and one that causes confusion each year, especially as the market attracts new customers.

This year, we finally got smart and put up a sign on our market table explaining that we were captives of the growing season just like local farmers. Once people hear the explanation, they almost always accept it.

But we always fear that when the cabin-fevered come out to the first, heavily promoted markets, they’ll see only the early leafy vegetables and think that’s all there is. Thus, my dark cloud after reading Harris’s piece.

It took a few days before I realized how stupid I was. I actually felt bad about somebody calling us a weekly block party?

Heavens! We’d spent all winter buying new tables and chairs and recruiting new prepared food vendors like Foxy Falafel and Sonny’s Ice Cream. Sun Street Breads started delivering unbelievable fruit-filled turnovers, creamy lemon scones, and bacon biscuits, while Chef Shack’s mini-donuts and hot dogs and Akshay Paatram’s mango juice and Indian food were there for the savoring. All block parties should have that kind of smorgasbord!

And of course, our party isn’t limited to one block — this year, we’ve stretched our postcard marketing and business support into Lyndale, East Harriet, Tangletown, CARAG, Lynnhurst, Fulton and several east-of-the-highway neighborhoods. It may not be as intimate as a block party, but it’s not all that random, either. Increasingly, we see friends bringing friends, and friends making new friends. We’re the block you can move into any time … and we’re willing to share the vegetables from our garden.

Kingfield Farmers Market

The market runs every Sunday through October, 8:30 a.m.–1 p.m. at 43rd & Nicollet. It features locally grown food, music and more. For more information, visit kingfieldmarket.org.