Westonka Food Shelf, area churches and volunteer gardeners are pooling their resources to hold three farmers markets throughout the summer, with the first market to be June 12 at Our Lady of the Lake in Mound.

The markets take their cue from the now discontinued Farmers to Families food distribution events in that they’ll be open to anyone who needs the assistance, no documentation required.

But they’re also being held as memorial to a Mound businessman whose contribution last year had made possible a similar market for Westonka Food Shelf patrons.

Don Goodwin, who died in April this year after battling multiple myeloma since 2013, had donated $2,500 and much of the produce for a fresh foods market that served more than 100 WFS patrons last June.

The markets are a bit of a tribute to him, said WFS director Michelle Bottenfield. Plus, she said, there is still a need in the area for some kind of one-time food assistance—or even just better access to fresh foods. That was top of mind when she learned that the May food drop was last of the Farmers to Families food distributions.

“Maybe they don’t need that day-to-day support like our registered patrons do, but if it just helps kind of alleviate a little of that living paycheck to paycheck or just kind of eking by then it’s a good thing,” said Bottenfield.

Bottenfield said that for the markets the hope is to be able to provide avocado, kiwi and mango next to the more usual stands of carrots, oranges and cabbage. “We’re hoping that we’ll be able to provide a lot of the fruits and vegetables that are so expensive that really they’re kind of unobtainable,” she said, adding that the selection at each market event will be a little dependent on what the food shelf can get from the wholesalers the day before.

But Bottenfield and the food shelf also have some extra help on that food procurement front. About a dozen volunteers from Westwood Church, which has locations in Chanhassen and Excelsior, have dug their hands in the earth at Bethel United Methodist’s community Grow Garden here in Mound and are donating the fruits—and veggies—of their labor to the markets.

“We’re just happy to help!” exclaimed Chris Naylor, one of the volunteer gardeners. “Michelle [Bottenfield] said you know, we have this opportunity but we have no idea how to garden—I don’t either—but it’s so cool, let’s just do it,” she said, laughing.

A few more experienced green thumbs, both from the Hope Garden at Westwood’s Chanhassen campus and from Bethel’s own garden, have lent their trowels and advice to Naylor. “It is so fascinating. Everyone has their unique story and their connection to the earth and wanting to share fresh produce with people. And that’s sometimes at food shelves, that’s sometimes the things that’s missing,” she said.

Bottenfield said the markets are part of the food shelf’s health equity initiative in bringing those fresh food items directly to those who may not otherwise be able have them. Broadening the foods available helps nutritional, yes, but it also helps to lift the spirits, she said.

Westonka Food Shelf, in partnership with area churches, is hosting three market events this summer. The first market, from 8-11 a.m. on June 12, will be in the back parking lot at Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church (2385 Commerce Blvd., Mound). Navarre’s Good Shepherd Lutheran Church will be the site of another market on July 17, and River Valley Church in Minnetrista will host the final market on Aug. 21.

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