A new farmers market: hands across the highway

I’ve loved Southwest Minneapolis enough to edit its community newspaper, chair one of its neighborhood associations (twice!), and co-found a nonprofit within its borders. My kids go to its schools. I hang out at its coffee shops and restaurants. We walk the dog on its streets.

But one of the things that bugs me is how few people in my 35W-hugging neighborhood cross the highway, even when it makes logical sense. They’ll go to Walker Library instead of Hosmer. They’ll run west to the Lakes but not east on the parkway. It’s as if dragons live in that concrete trench.

Near as I can tell, people east of 35W have few such hang-ups. For them, south Minneapolis is truly south Minneapolis, not “southwest Minneapolis and oh-my-God-what’s-over-there?”

In 2012, I got a call from Minneapolis Council Member John Quincy, whose far-south district straddles both sides of 35W. A neighborhood he represented, Hale Page Diamond Lake, was interested in a farmers market. I chaired the Kingfield/Fulton Farmers Markets. Would we be interested in doing something there?

I know many of Kingfield’s loyal market-goers lived east of the highway, but I had to look up HPDL on a map. South of Minnehaha Creek, east to Lake Nokomis, south to the Crosstown — and of course east of 35W.

John’s call began two years of due diligence and education. It ends now, as we and the HPDL Community Association proudly announce the 2014 Nokomis Farmers Market.

The market will be at 52nd & Chicago, in the parking lot of the very generous First Evangelical Free Church. The site is just a block south of the parkway and a stone’s throw from the popular 48th & Chicago business node. We hope it becomes the go-to market for HPDL and nearby neighborhoods — and draws our Southwest fans as a Wednesday compliment to Sunday’s Kingfield market.

Yes, Wednesday. This will be our first midweek market and our first non-mornings (4–8 p.m.). We envision a Hump Night hangout for families and foodies, with fresh veggies, food trucks, music — and maybe dancing! — on those warm summer nights.

In 2014, we’ll test this concept with three monthly markets: June 25, July 23 and Aug. 27. We’re going slow for a few reasons.

First, we need proof the weeknight concept works. Our vendors have told us they are overbooked with weekend markets, and would love a good midweek market to smooth out demand. As someone addicted to veggies that were in the ground yesterday, I’d love a nearby midweek refill. But will people trained on weekend shopping dig the weeknight alternative?

Second, we need volunteers to step forward! The Hardworking Kingfield/Fulton crew has its hands full with two summer markets and our popular new winter series at Bachman’s on 60th. HPDL’s Frost Fest and Picnic in Pearl Park show their residents have the helping spirit. As a volunteer who’s helped create dozens of neighborhood festivals a year, experiencing the appreciation is addictive. If want to make Nokomis “your” market, or are an interested business sponsor, please email [email protected] for more info.

Third — but not least — we need to make sure we don’t hurt existing markets. A lot of our due diligence was making sure we were located far enough away, and on different days. Former Mayor R.T. Rybak always prodded us to create a “seven-day” food system, and with Nokomis’s arrival south Minneapolis will now have markets on Tuesday (Midtown), Wednesday (Nokomis), Saturday (Fulton and Midtown) and Sunday (Kingfield and Linden Hills). Will it work? We’ll know better after 2014’s events.

Food is a great way to bring people together, within neighborhoods and across communities. We hope Nokomis and the proposed Seward Coop expansion at 38th & 3rd give Southwest two reasons to leap the highway moat. To track our progress, please follow our Twitter feed (@NokomisMarket) and our “Nokomis Farmers Market” Facebook page.

David Brauer, a former Journal editor, lives in Kingfield with his wife and two kids.