More than 40 vendors will sell everything from produce to pork, cheese to coffee

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

With the pandemic receding, the Elk River Farmers Market will return in 2021 with all the bells and whistles people have become accustomed to — plus a few new ones.

The market opens Thursday, June 17, in the northwest corner of the parking lot behind Kemper Drug in downtown Elk River.

The market will be open Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. through Oct. 7.

More than 40 vendors are signed up to participate this year — a full slate with more on a waiting list.

Karen Wingard, market coordinator for the city of Elk River, said people can expect to find plenty of vegetables, bedding plants, flowers, chicken, pork, beef, eggs, cheese, bread, berries, herbs, maple syrup, honey, jam, soap, CBD products, hot sauce, salsa, candles, coffee, pickles, lemonade, kettle corn, hand-crafted items and more. Many of the vendors are returning and some are new.

One of the new vendors is Josiah Christensen, a commercial gourmet mushroom grower from Becker.

Christensen initially started growing mushrooms as a hobby while working for a large food production greenhouse in Wisconsin. He realized there was the potential to turn his hobby into a business, and did a mentorship at a mushroom farm in Tennessee.

Now he’s begun growing gourmet mushrooms commercially in a greenhouse in Becker. His business is called Pleasant Valley Mushrooms, so named because Pleasant Valley was the original name of Becker.

“I thought it was a cool homage to the history of the town,” he said.

He said there’s a wide variety of mushrooms beyond the button mushrooms familiar to most people.

Oyster mushrooms, for instance, have an excellent taste, he said.

Other gourmet mushrooms include Lion’s Mane, which he said tastes kind of like seafood; Black Poplar, which is a meaty variety; Turkey Tail, which is believed to help boost the immune system; and Reishi, a medicinal mushroom.

He said mushrooms are very healthy, low calorie, low carb and have a lot of protein compared to the calories.

“They are really a wonderful thing,” he said.

In addition to Pleasant Valley Mushrooms, some of the other new vendors at the Elk River Farmers Market include a vendor from Monticello selling pulla (a cardamom sweet bread) and ruisleipa (a sourdough rye bread); a vendor that will start selling garlic scapes in June and bulbs for seed and culinary use later in the season; a vendor from Andover selling kombucha, kimchi and honey-fermented garlic; a vendor selling grass-fed beef and beef sticks; and a certified organic vegetable farmer from Hutchinson whose operation is called The Farm of Minnesota.

Going green

The Elk River Farmers Market is going green in 2021.

Wingard has been working with Amanda Erickson, the city’s environmental coordinator, and they are rolling out several new initiatives at this year’s market, designed in part to reduce the use of plastic bags.

New reusable tote bags will be given away to shoppers on opening day (June 17) while supplies last. Kids age 3-7 used their artistic skills to illustrate what they like about the farmers market and Charli Heinen, a kindergartner at Lincoln Elementary in Elk River, created the winning design which will be featured on the tote bags.

There also will be a weekly prize drawing for a bin full of earth-friendly products and farmers market tokens. Shoppers who bring a reusable bag of any type to the farmers market can stop by the city’s information booth to be entered to win the prize.

Clean plastic bags will be accepted for recycling at the farmers market as well, and anyone who drops off bags for recycling will be also be entered in the weekly prize drawing.

To further reduce the use of plastic bags, the city is providing compostable bags for vendors to use for the produce they sell at the market.

In another green initiative, there will be a place to recycle organics — like food waste — at the farmers market. The organic material is turned into compost which can be used for fertilizer.

Erickson said it’s a way to help people learn more about organics recycling. The city of Elk River has an organics recycling program offered free to residents. About 325 households are currently participating. For more information, go to ElkRiverMN.gov/Organics or call 763-635-1068.

Meanwhile, there will be live music at the farmers market each week from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. and other programs including:

•Frequent shopper rewards program: Shop at the market six times and get $5 worth of free tokens to spend at the farmers market and a chance to win a shopping spree.

•Senior Days at the Market: Held the first Thursday of the month when seniors get $3 in free tokens.

•Power of Produce Club: From July 8 through Aug. 26 kids 3 to 12 years old can join the POP Club and receive a free $2 token each week to spend on fruits or vegetables.

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