Had someone told me 10 years ago I would be the board chair of an organization that puts on farmers markets, I would have been sure they were kidding.
I liked the concept of farmers markets in theory but my single, downtown-living self sadly did not eat nearly enough fresh fruit and vegetables to make a dent in the big bunches of fresh food that were for sale.
Yet five years ago, as a new resident of Fulton and newly a stay-at-home mom, I knew one thing: Going to the Fulton Farmers Market with my family made me happy. With three kids under age 3, we were not going to too many places and the short walk over to the Fulton Farmers Market became a wonderful way to start our weekends.
I saw a post on Nextdoor that the group that put on the markets was looking for board members, just as I was looking for a project of my own outside the house. After five years on the board, I can only hope the markets have benefited from my work as much as I have benefited from my experience.
Farmers markets are not just for fruits and vegetables. The Neighborhood Roots markets strive to be a place where you can do your weekly grocery shopping. In addition to produce, they offer meat, eggs and cheese, as well as canned and prepared foods.
Choosing from the array of foods at the market any given week has made me think about how to prepare foods and use things in ways I would not have thought of before. Buying face to face from growers is an ideal experience that gives both sides a chance to learn from each other, with customers seeing the amount of work and passion farmers put into their crops. When buying pre-packaged or ready-to-eat foods at the markets, I get to talk to new business owners and the excitement for what they do is contagious.
During the my time on the board, I have been introduced to many new friends, but I also look forward to the market as a place to see other friends and neighbors who we don’t get to see in our busy day-to-day lives. The Fulton Farmers Market has become a true community gathering place.
Fulton, as well as its sister markets Nokomis and Kingfield, were created out of a desire from the neighborhoods to create this type of community, and we as residents and customers are needed each week to keep it running. We can have a say in the programming, policy and funding. And we can just be there as friendly faces handing out samples or setting up and tearing down booths.
The markets strive to be by and for the neighborhoods, but we cannot do it without volunteers. If you enjoy the market, take a chance and see what you can do to give back to it. I am certain you will not be disappointed. I hope to see you at the market next season as we continue to grow for our neighborhoods, vendors and small businesses.
Sasha Jensen is the outgoing chair of Neighborhood Roots, the organization that runs the Fulton, Kingfield and Nokomis farmers markets.