A farmers market and so much more

Booths large and small are filled to the rafters with products.

According to Minnesota Grown, a partnership between the Department of Agriculture and growers, asparagus, green onions, radishes, rhubarb and spinach should all be in-season in May. Yes, it’s time to hit farmers markets for locally grown produce again!

Did you know that Hmong growers make up more than 50 percent of those selling in our metropolitan farmers markets? Between growing on their own properties and on a 155-acre collaborative farm in Dakota County, Hmong farmers are at the heart of the locavore movement.

One of my favorite places to shop is at Hmongtown Marketplace. With three year-round permanent buildings and a large outdoor summer market, this shopping destination is both practical and an adventure.

Hmongtown Marketplace is located on the 10-acre site of a former lumberyard just north of the state Capitol. It’s been there since 2004 and is now going through an expansion and renovation phase.

More than 200 vendors sell just about everything in jam-packed booths and outdoor tables. Summer brings plenty of vegetables, herbs and bedding plants, but you’ll also find unusual cookware, beautiful fabrics, sandals not seen in other stores and the largest selection of decorative hair clips anywhere. Colorful and intricate Hmong textiles cover pillows, purses, wallets and traditional clothing sewn on-site. Bring cash for easier transactions but some vendors do take credit cards.

The Song Poet coverHmongtown Marketplace is part farmers market, part shopping mall, part food court and part retail entertainment. Be sure to try the Hmong and Asian specialty foods as well as the popular fruit smoothies and bubble tea.

To learn more about the Hmong experience, pick up Kao Kalia Yang’s latest book, “The Song Poet: A Memoir of My Father,” a 2017 Minnesota Book Award winner in the Creative Nonfiction/Memoir category.

“A good farmer is a craftsman of the highest order, a kind of artist.”

― Wendell Berry


Hmongtown Marketplace
217 Como Ave., St. Paul

Summer hours: 8 a.m.–8 p.m., seven days a week

LUNCH TIP: Hmong chicken and sausage specialties are sold in the main building’s food court along with nearly a hundred flavors of bubble tea.