Fulton Farmers Market enlisting youth to help with marketing

FULTON — It will be harder to miss the third season of the Fulton Farmers Market at 49th & Chowen — kids at this year’s market are invited to design durable lawn signs, take them home and stick the promotion in the front yard all summer.

Fulton saw a decline in attendance at last year’s market, although vendors reported that sales held up fine. Organizers attribute the 15 to 20 percent attendance drop to a lack of marketing and new competition with the Linden Hills Farmers Market that opened a mile away last season. Fulton attendance remained healthy, however — just north of 1,000 people attended per week last year.

Fulton Neighborhood Association (FNA) board member Jeff Alden said he’s not taking anything for granted. The FNA has city approval to invest $6,000 to support the market.

“You like to do everything you can for the market,” Alden said. “It’s really important to the Fulton neighborhood.”

Fulton artist Gail Katz-James will lead the sign project. In 2009, she helped kids make more than 150 “Fulton Favorites” lawn signs. Kids made images of their favorite parts of the neighborhood, creating signs with ice cream cones, lakeside sunsets and dog-walkers.

A neighborhood survey prompted a few other changes for the market, according to David Brauer, who works with the Fulton and Kingfield Farmers’ Markets. In prior years, he said, vendors luxuriated in the expansive parking lot space, with vendors flung to the corners of the lot. There was plenty of room to walk around, but the market lost the “bustling” feeling that people enjoy at farmers’ markets. So this year, the vendors are a bit more clustered.

“It will feel like a more happening place,” Brauer said. “We’ll have more shade, we’re bringing more tents, and there will be more vegetables.”

The market starts May 18. Vendors include Bossy Acres, Gardens of Eagan (the Wedge Co-op’s farm), Chef Shack, Patisserie 46, Wild Run Salmon, Matt and Garrett’s plants (the entrepreneurs raise vegetable starts in their Fulton home), and Bodylish skincare products.

Farther east in Minneapolis, the Hale-Page-Diamond Lake Community Association is also consulting with Brauer on the possibility of a farmers’ market in their neighborhood. Brauer said the neighborhood has engaged residents on the east side of Lake Nokomis, adding a layer of complexity to the business analysis.

“Is there enough support for a market?” Brauer said. “If there is only support for one market, would it go on the east or west side of the lake?”

A decision is expected this fall on whether to plan a new farmers’ market for the 2014 season.