The Whittier Farmers Market (WFM) is the product of that desire. Now in its third year WFM is about “much more than vegetables” as Market Manager Emma Nichols, who is in her second year with the market, puts it. In its three-year existence the Market has become a place of community and a gathering ground--a proverbial “third place,” a term used in community building and a philosophy Pastor Jeff is passionate about. The idea is to create a place outside of the workplace and home designed to bring people together in their spare time, andand a visit to the Market any given Saturday in July through September is a testament to their success in achieving that. Features such as live music, places to sit, sidewalk chalk, great coffee, and many friendly faces, show this is a place designed for everyone to enjoy together. The Market’s the goal of increasing accessibility to healthy foods and offering a strong variety of in-season fresh vegetables week to week is also central to the mission. 2018 marked the first full year in which the market was able to accept SNAP and EBT benefits, and Nichols is eager to continue building on and promoting those options moving forward.
Beyond these efforts the Whittier Farmers Market also serves as a place for businesses and entrepreneurs to showcase their offerings. Nichols explains that they strive for vendors who are newer to business, some of whom are setting up for the first time.The Market provides a small, low risk environment to try things out and gauge the successes and inevitable “failures” of business. That philosophy is also carried out by their intentionally low and manageable vendor fees. This year, in partnership with Whittier Alliance, the Market has also offered a “small business incubation” program to its vendors and other neighborhood entrepreneurs, featuring free business coaching and other resources to help them navigate the many hurdles a business can face in its early stages. Whittier’s own Wesley Andrews coffee shop is an example of a vendor who used the Farmers Market as one of their jumping off points, eventually opening their brick and mortar shop in 2017 located at 111 E 26th St.
The Market is still young and has faced some growing pains, as well. Due to space constraints, they are limited in the amount of vendors they can have, which in turn limits available product in the event of late or bad harvest. Attendance was a bit down in its third year but has been generally consistent. Nichols and the team at Calvary do a great job making each week of the Market unique with themes and special events throughout the summer including an ice cream social, live mural painting, a back-to-school day in which school supplies were given away, and several others.
When asked about their position in the neighborhood, Nichols does not hesitate to say she feels “Whittier is the best neighborhood in Minneapolis.” She explains further that the diversity of backgrounds, faiths, and nationalities in Whittier make it a great setting for the Market. She adds, with a smile, for anyone curious about the neighborhood “tell them to come to the Market!”
The Whittier Alliance is proud to support the efforts of the Whittier Farmers Market and is eager to continue building their partnership and the prominence of this “third place” moving forward. . The farmers market runs from the last weekend in June through the last weekend in September. It is a fantastic asset to the neighborhood, a great way to shop local, and a prime opportunity for community members to meet one another and learn more about their own neighborhood. Be sure to check out the last market of 2018 this Saturday, September 29th from 8:30 am--1:00 pm and say farewell until next summer.