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Willmar, Minn., Farmers Market has successful first year at YMCA

In this July 14 photo, Emily Streich, of Willmar, bags corn for a customer during the first Farmers Market of the year at the new location in the YMCA parking lot. Vendors and customers agree the move from the Westside Liquor lot to the new site has gone well. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- It's usually a good sign when an event outgrows its venue. For Miriam VandeSteeg, market manager of the Willmar Farmers Market, it was a bittersweet realization.

This year, instead of holding the weekly Saturday farmers market at Westside Liquor in Willmar, the market had to move to a bigger location: the Kandiyohi County YMCA parking lot.

"We had a good place at Westside, and we did very well there," VandeSteeg said.

"We just ran out of room and needed a bigger space."

The farmers market had been held at Westside for the past 10 years, but because the market has grown considerably in size, it had to move this year to a larger location, VandeSteeg said.

Overall, it was a positive move for both vendors and customers, she said. Most vendors have reported more sales than last year, and customers have more room to park and move around.

"Our vendors were very, very happy with the return they got this year," VandeSteeg said. "I didn't hear any negative comments from anyone. The Y has a big parking lot, and on Saturday mornings it's always full. We had a very successful year."

This year, the market has had 59 vendor slots filled each Saturday, most of them the same from week to week.

At the market, area vendors sell anything from meat to produce to sweets to handmade rugs and embroidery. Everything sold at the market has to be homemade or handmade and locally grown in Minnesota.

"Our market is primarily a produce market, but the vendors sell anything that you can grow or make locally," VandeSteeg said. "We've stuck to that idea all these years."

This is the 47th year of the Willmar Farmers Market, which was started by VandeSteeg's late husband, Henry VandeSteeg.

In recent years, farmers markets have become more popular because people are becoming more aware of the health benefits of eating local, VandeSteeg said.

"We have a lot of young mothers come out and buy fresh vegetables for their children, because they know it's healthier," she said. "We want to get healthy products out for the public to purchase. If people are interested in nutrition and fresh foods, we're here to give them options."

Follow Ashley White on Twitter @Ashley_WCT

Ashley White

Ashley White is the community content coordinator for the West Central Tribune. Follow her on Twitter @Ashley_WCT.

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