Lake Elmo Farmers Market turns 5


The Lake Elmo Farmers Market is celebrating its fifth year as a place for locals and visitors to peruse and purchase goods, from produce to books. (Solomon Gustavo photos/Review)

Lake Elmo Farmers Market founder Jill Lundgren with volunteer Susan Saffle. (Solomon Gustavo photos/Review)

Vendors and farmers market nonprofit board members Vickie Graczyk and Kathy Hartmeister in front of their booth full of canned items, like pickles and jams, and repurposed wool products, like hats and gloves.

“We want cheese,” said Jill Lundgren.

Cheese vendors, that is, noted the founder and chief organizer of the Lake Elmo Farmers Market. She started the market in the summer of 2014. This is its fifth year. 

Lundgren, a retired nurse and former Lake Elmo City Council member, said she came up with the idea on the campaign trail. “I noticed there are farmers, and no market.”

The weekly event started in a little courtyard space on Lake Elmo Avenue with eight vendors. After a couple successful years, Lundgren incorporated the market into a nonprofit. 

Now, the market has more than 20 vendors and moved to the larger parking lot at Lake Elmo Elementary at 11030 Stillwater Blvd., where the market is held Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The season started June 22 and ends Sept. 7. 

Lundgren brought her ambition of a Lake Elmo Farmers Market to life and helped it grow, and still has more goals for her civic project. She’s after more vendor variety, like that cheese addition, and more accomodations, like elderly parking. 

Of the 20 or so weekly vendors, market offerings include produce, honey, bread, jam and books by local and regional authors. 

“I really feel community and business need to work together,” said Lundgren. “I think it’s wonderful for the community.”

Along with Lake Elmo Elementary allowing the farmers’ market to rent its parking lot, other Lake Elmo entities, like Lake Elmo Inn, Gorman’s Restaurant and the Lake Elmo Jaycess have made donations to support it.

 

Growth and fresh grub

“Lake Elmo’s growing,” noted Lundgren. 

New neighbors, from the recently retired to young parents, are filling new housing developments.

“People want to buy organic, buy local,” she said. “And you gotta offer it.”

Susan Saffle, 67, volunteers with the market. The former nurse moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Lake Elmo six years ago with her husband for their retirement. 

“Where I lived before was a really big city, so I wasn’t really involved in that,” said Saffle. “When I heard about Mrs. Jill here, I thought, ‘This is my chance.’”

“We’re both nurses,” Lundgren mused, “so we’re very organized.”

Volunteers put up signs around town and post more signage around the market. They also mark vendor spaces and help people set up and take down their tents. 

Saffle and Lundgren were also passing back and forth a counter — so far for the first market of the year on June 22 they’d clocked more than 300 visitors. 

Saffle joined the farmers market about three years ago, which she said has been a wonderful way of jumping into her new community. 

That community includes vendors like Vickie Graczyk, 62, and Kathy Hartmeister, 73, who were involved in the original markets.

The Lake Elmo residents teamed up to sell canned items like pickles, relishes, salsas and marmalades. They also sell Hartmeister’s repurposed wool items, in which she recycles sweaters to create winter hats and gloves. 

“She makes pickles,” said Hartmeister of her market partner, through a beaming smile. “I’m usually pickled,” she winked, through rolling laughter. 

Graczyk knowingly rolled her eyes, which makes Hartmeister laugh harder. 

“It’s just fun to be out here, whether we sell anything or not,” said Graczyk. “It’s just fun to see people meander, enjoy.”

 

–Solomon Gustavo can be reached at sgustavo@lillienews.com or 651-748-7815.

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