Profile: Robert Skafte

Robert Skafte

Manager of the Stevens Square Farmers Market

On the night of Aug. 30, the Nicollet and Franklin intersection was the scene of a police shootout with a drug suspect. By 2 p.m. the next afternoon, the intersection was not draped in police tape. It was decorated with locally grown vegetables and neighbors were coming by to get their hands on fresh peppers and onions.

While the shooting grabbed the next day’s headlines, the Stevens Square Farmers Market has been a quiet fixture of the intersection for four years. It’s not as large as some of the other farmers markets in Minneapolis, but the same two vendors have provided a much-needed healthy produce selection for the population-dense Stevens Square neighborhood.

Standing at the market as he does every Wednesday was Robert Skafte, who manages not just the farmers market, but also two community gardens in the area that provide enough space to allow 50 neighbors to grow their own veggies and flowers.

Skafte, 49, was talking to a North Minneapolis woman who, along with neighbors, was trying to start a community garden. He was giving her tips he’d picked up from 10 years of fighting to keep two Stevens Square Community Organization-operated gardens open for planting.

The community gardens, he says, are a selling point for the apartment and condo market. All types of people — young, old, poor and well-off — can live in an apartment or condo and still keep a garden.

If it weren’t for the community garden at LaSalle Avenue overlooking I-94, the area might be a vacant lot. Instead, Skafte says, it’s a place where people in the neighborhood get to know one another.  

“You get people that walk by and say, ‘Oh, thank you so much. We love walking by here. It’s really pretty, even if they don’t have a spot in there,’” he said. “It kind of creates a weird park, without being a park. I put benches in there to welcome people to come in and sit down.”

The Stevens Square Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 2 to 6:30 p.m. from July through October.