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Morris Farmers Market starts fresh

Summer is a special time in Minnesota. The cold dark winter has passed and green spreads across the countryside. Warm days open the door to every Minnesotan's birthright: real strawberries, tasty tomatoes and corn so sweet it's confused with candy.

In our community, the Morris Area Farmers Market has become a nexus of amazing farmers and produce. This year, the market is moving East Side Park in Morris to help provide a more comfortable and enjoyable buying experience for its customers. The market will be every Monday and Thursday 3-6 p.m., and kicks-off for the season Thursday June 14.

The market consists of more than 20 vendors selling local produce, meat, eggs, fresh-cut flowers, and hand-made bread and preserves.

A major issue facing the market has been its location. For the last several years the market has met in parking lots, first at the American Legion and then the Aaron Carlson lot across from Town and Country.

"We're excited to move to the park, because the asphalt provided no shade and was very windy," said Paula Feuchtenberger, Morris Area Farmers Market coordinator. "There were also no bathrooms or places to sit, it wasn't wheelchair accessible and was dangerous for kids."

This year, the Morris Area Farmers Market is moving to East Side Park to remedy these problems. "We're excited to move to the park, to have shade and grass, as well as places for people to sit and enjoy a visit with friends," Feuchtenberger said. "Wheelchair accessibility, bathrooms and playground equipment nearby will make the market more inviting for everyone."

The market cooperates with the Upper Minnesota River Valley arm of Buy Fresh Buy Local, a national initiative supporting the distribution of locally grown food, and Morris Healthy Eating, led by the University of Minnesota Morris to increase access to fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods on the UMM campus, in Morris and in Stevens County.

Another supporter is the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which has provided grants for the Morris Area Farmers Market to promote healthy eating across all income levels.

Mary Jo Forbord, Coordinator of Morris Healthy Eating said, "Just about everyone enjoys coming out to see what's fresh and in season, and support the farmers who grow their food. East Side Park will enhance the 'town square' feel of the market."

In addition, this year's market will provide free rides for seniors through the Morris Transit.

The market's produce is seasonal and always fresh from the farm. Early in the season you'll see many cold-weather crops like lettuce, spinach and broccoli, as well as fresh-picked strawberries. Warm-weather crops like tomatoes, melons and corn will become available later in the summer.

"I like doing this because it's rewarding to be able to interact with your customers one-on-one," Feuchtenberger said. "Many people don't know where their food comes from. It's shipped from thousands of miles away and doesn't even taste that good. At the farmers market, you can meet the farmer and ask them what goes into growing their produce. When you get a jam or loaf of bread, you know it was hand made by that person with ingredients they grew themselves."

The market has created a network of vendors and community members passionate about educating people about healthy eating and providing a space to access fresh local products. New vendors can register at any time. To learn more about the market or become a vendor please visit www. Come and taste the difference.