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Eat Up! 7 Transit-Friendly Farmers Markets in MSP

Winter rarely goes without a fight. But all the signs — forsythia blooming, grass greening, tree leaves unfurling — are pointing to spring, and summer’s on the way. With warmer mornings, longer days and the start of garden season come an annual MSP tradition: The start of farmers market season and an abundance of locally grown produce.
Looking to sample the region’s freshest produce without braving traffic? In celebration of the Green Line’s first full farmers market season, here are seven MSP markets within walking distance of a major transit line (in many cases, the Green Line itself).
1. St. Paul Farmers Market
The St. Paul Farmers Market traces its roots back to the mid-19th century, when Minnesota’s first public market (dubbed Market House) opened at Seventh and Wabasha streets in downtown St. Paul. The market moved to Tenth and Jackson streets in the early 20th century, remaining there until the new I-94 forced relocation to Fifth and Wall streets, its present weekend home. The market also operates a smaller, seasonal market along 7th Place Mall on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The St. Paul Farmers Market is one of MSP’s largest and most popular markets. Its 160+ stalls offer “bakery goods, cheese, poultry, buffalo, venison, beef, pork [and] lamb,” as well as  “maple syrup, eggs, bagel sandwiches, honey, organic plants and produce, flowers, plants [and] shrubs,” according to its website. The market only permits locally grown produce, as defined by the USDA — if it’s not grown in Minnesota, western Wisconsin or northern Iowa, you probably won’t find it at the St. Paul Farmers Market.
Where: 290 E 5th St., St. Paul (Lowertown) and the 7th Place Mall, St. Paul (Downtown)
How to Get There: For the Lowertown location, take the Green Line to Union Station, then walk northeast on 4th and Wall streets. (Metro Transit offers free rides to the Lowertown market every Saturday.) For the Downtown location, take the Green Line to Central Station, then walk three blocks northwest on 5th and Wabasha streets.
Hours: Lowertown is open Saturdays 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., from May 2 through November 22. Downtown is open Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., from June 9 through October 15.
Contact: [email protected] or (651) 227-8101
2. Hmongtown Marketplace
Founded in 2004 on the site of a former lumberyard north of the Minnesota State Capitol, Hmongtown Marketplace is a thriving homage to the industriousness of MSP’s Hmong community and its invaluable contributions to the region’s culture. Hmongtown’s stall count is actually higher than the St. Paul Farmers Market’s, and the place is open 12 hours every day. Fresh produce abounds, much grown by Hmong farmers in small plots just outside MSP. Traditional crafts, herbs and prepared foods are for sale as well.
Hmongtown tried to add about 100 stalls in 2008, but ran into contract issues and fallout from the recession. Green Line construction affected the next round of plans (and business in general) in 2012 and 2013. Now that the Green Line is running and the crowds are back, momentum is building for a bigger, better Hmongtown Marketplace.
Where: 217 Como Ave., St. Paul
How to Get There: Take the Green Line to Capitol Station. From there, either walk about a third of a mile north on Rice Street and then Como Avenue, or take the westbound 3 or 67 bus for door-to-door service.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. everyday, year-round
Contact: [email protected] or (651) 487-3700
3. University of Minnesota Farmers Market
The University of Minnesota’s in-house farmers market might be smaller than St. Paul’s or Hmongtown’s, but it’s definitely worth an extended lunch break on Wednesdays. Vendor farms must be located within 2.5 hours by car, meaning the market’s produce comes from Minnesota and western Wisconsin. One of the biggest highlights here: An extensive selection of organic produce from Cornercopia, a student-run urban farm.
Where: 200 SE Oak St., Minneapolis (Gateway Plaza outside McNamara Alumni Center)
How to Get There: Take the Green Line to the Stadium Village or East Bank stations, then walk about a quarter mile to the McNamara Center.
Hours: 11 a.m to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, from July 9 through October 8
Contact: http://www1.umn.edu/ohr/wellness/nutrition/farmersmarket/ or https://www.facebook.com/umn.farmersmarket/info?tab=page_info
4. Midtown Farmers Market
Midtown Farmers Market sits at Lake and Hiawatha, one of Minneapolis’s busiest, most transit-rich intersections. The market’s prime location and ample event space make it an ideal weekend destination: On May 2, Midtown Farmers Market kicked off the 2015 season with live music and some of MSP’s hottest new food trucks. Day-to-day, the market specializes in fresh, locally grown produce (some of it organic), artisanal cheeses, plants and shrubs, prepared foods and locally made crafts.
The surface lot currently utilized by Midtown Farmers Market won’t be around for much longer: The long-planned L&H Station development, a mixed-use project that will add more than 100,000 square feet of office space and 500+ new residences to the site over the next decade, begins preliminary construction this year. Midtown Farmers Market will temporarily move a few hundred feet south to accommodate construction; a permanent plaza for the market should be in place by 2017 or 2018.
Where: 2225 E Lake St., Minneapolis
How to Get There: Take the Blue Line to Lake Street Station, then walk south across Lake Street. Metro Transit offers free buses and trains to the market on the first Saturday of each month. (If you’re biking, the market is just a couple blocks south of the Midtown Greenway.)
Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, from May 2 through October 23. 3 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesdays, from June 2 through October 27.
Contact: [email protected] or (612) 724-7457
5. Mill City Farmers Market
Tucked into and around the grounds of the Mill City Museum, Mill City Farmers Market is probably MSP’s most tourist-friendly farmers market. It’s also among the region’s most heavily programmed markets: cooking demos, live local music, an art market, even an occasional pop-up petting zoo are all part of the Mill City mix. The market plans to mark its 10th anniversary this Saturday with a slew of Mother’s Day activities.
Depending on season and supply, Mill City’s produce offerings include locally grown “spinach, lots and lots of garden starts, asparagus, rhubarb, pac choi, beets, micro greens, salad mix, herbs, bunching onions, chives, arugula, radishes, carrots, kale, potatoes, cilantro, oregano, dried and fresh mushrooms [and] dried peppers,” per the market’s website. For an up-to-date rundown of what to expect on any given market day, use the website’s handy Produce Finder feature.
Where: 704 S 2nd St., Minneapolis
How to Get There: Take the Blue or Green Line to Downtown East Station, then walk three blocks northeast on Chicago Avenue.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturdays, from May 9 through September 27. 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays, from October 4 through October 25. Occasional winter hours; check website for details.
Contact: [email protected] or (612) 341-7580
6. IDS Center Farmers Market
In Minneapolis, you can’t get much more centrally located than the IDS Center where a farmers market has thrived nearby for years along Nicollet Mall. While the mall undergoes its transformation this summer, a farmers market will be set up inside the IDS Center’s Crystal Court.
The IDS Center Farmers Market debuted in mid-March and plans, per the IDS Center’s website, to “sell local produce and other seasonal items year-round” — a welcome addition to MSP’s burgeoning winter farmers market scene. Faribault-based Living Greens Farm is the anchor vendor, with 10 percent of the market’s total sales going to charity.
Where: 80 South 8th St., Minneapolis
How to Get There: Take the Green or Blue Line to Nicollet Mall Station, then walk three blocks southwest on Nicollet.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, year-round
Contact: http://ids-center.com/?tribe_events=ids-center-farmers-market
7. Minneapolis Farmers Market
The Minneapolis Farmers Market proves that geography isn’t always destiny. Squished between I-94 and a hodgepodge of warehouse/light industrial structures in Minneapolis’ long-dormant Downtown West district, the market is nevertheless one of MSP’s largest and most popular. Vendors come from all over the Upper Midwest; many are small independent farmers with ties to the region’s immigrant communities. The Minneapolis Farmers Market also operates a sidewalk market on Hennepin Avenue this year.
While the Minneapolis Farmers Market specializes in edible items, the adjacent Farmers Market Annex — not affiliated in any way with the market itself — draws independent craftspeople and makers selling jewelry, clothing, ceramics, artwork and more. For weekly updates on in-season produce, check the market website’s “What’s in Season?” page.
Where: 312 East Lyndale Ave. N, Minneapolis, and Hennepin Avenue between 5th and 10th streets for the 2015 season
How to Get There: For Hennepin, take the Blue or Green Line to Nicollet Mall Station, then walk along Nicollet or Hennepin Avenues. For Lyndale, take the Blue or Green Line to Target Field Station (Platform 2), then walk west on N 6th Avenue/Olson Memorial Highway and south on Border Avenue.
Hours: Lyndale is open 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, from April 25 through harvest season. Nicollet/Hennepin is open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, from May 7 through harvest season.
Contact: (612) 333-1737, (612) 333-1718 or fill out the contact form at http://www.mplsfarmersmarket.com/FreshNews/contact-us/

Brian Martucci is The Line's Innovation and Job News Editor
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