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Farmer's market is coming this summer

A new farmer's market in downtown Farmington might start out a little smaller than others in the area, but if it's successful, organizers figure it will -- for a lack of a better word -- grow.

Expected to open in July, Farmington's new farmer's market will be held on Thursdays in the former Lampert lumberyard site on Spruce and Second streets.

Farmington community development administrative assistant Lisa Dargis, who is putting the market together, said the farmer's market will feature "traditional" things like produce and home-baked items. Vendors with things like plants, perennials and hanging baskets, herbs and other food-type products will also be welcomed.

Dargis said she is trying to steer away from flea market types of stands or those that sell little trinkets. Those types of stands might be included in the future, though. It all depends on what residents like.

"We really want to gear it toward what people would like to see, but we also want to get it established with the more traditional items and take it from there," Dargis said. "We would expect it to grow in the future."

After asking around to other communities that have markets, Dargis learned that first year of a farmer's market is typically the hardest. Getting a reasonable number of vendors interested is an issue, as is getting residents to come and support the market on a regular basis. Plus, the up-front costs of advertising play a role, too.

But the payoff does come. For instance, in Eagan's first year of holding a farmer's market (at Mary Mother of the Church on Cliff Road), there were only 12 vendors. The next year, it had expanded to 42, and the parking lot is now full every Thursday when that market is open.

Dargis has been working for nearly a year on getting a farmer's market. The city's economic development authority decided it would be a good way to generate some foot traffic in downtown Farmington. A poll on the city's web site also found support.

So Dargis went to work. Over the past few months, she has been researching what works in other communities. She has sent out letters to a number of vendors, and has received confirmation from five. Another five or six have expressed interest. Most of those vendors carry produce. Dargis would like to see a few more vendors with plants, herbs and homemade items.

"The biggest criteria will be what kind of feedback we get from the residents, how they're using it, if they want us to expand, and also from the vendors and whether or not they are generating an acceptable amount of revenue," Dargis said.

In addition to the vendors, the city of Farmington will have a booth set up at the market, providing information and resources to residents. But it does not stop there -- Dargis would like to incorporate a few special events on market night, too.

For instance, she is hoping to partner with the Dakota Valley Arts Council one night and have local artists showing their talents. There could be a night designed for families with younger children, with music and a few activities. And Dargis is looking at an evening where local businesses can come and set up tables or booths with information on their services.

The farmer's market is being funded, in part, through the EDA budget, but the city will also use $2,500 from a Dakota Electric Association Partners in Progress grant for the project. Each vendor will pay a fee toward the space. The city is paying to rent space at the vacant Lampert site, and will pay to advertise the market.

The market will be located at 109 Spruce St., in downtown Farmington. The site provides some overhead protection, and the market will be held, rain or shine, every Thursday from July 9 through Sept. 23. Hours of operation will be 3 to 7 p.m.

Dargis is still taking applications from vendors. Anyone interested may find more information on the city of Farmington's web site, the News and Information link, or by calling Dargis, 651-280-6823. Applications for space will be accepted through June 15.