People as Wholesome as Produce

By Alyssa Cady

You want to get off here and walk all the way down that road, advised the driver of the bus to downtown St. Paul. Surprised, I poked my head out of the vehicle, eyeing the empty street ahead of me and snapped my head back up at her with a look of suspicion.

“Yep,” she reassured me casually. “Just keep walking ’til you see all the people.”

Reluctantly, I obeyed and began my trek down the deserted street. With a sigh, I looked back in time to see the rear of the bus as it made its way towards the security of Macalester.

I walked quickly, trying to look as nonchalant as possible for a girl who’s never been to downtown St. Paul before, let alone traversed its streets by herself. But before long, I started to see moms towing wagons full of fruit and small children, and elderly couples complaining about the prices of apples. What I thought was a construction zone revealed itself to be a crowded block of people and produce, all under a wide tent.

Thinking back on the farmer’s markets back home, I whipped out my environmentally friendly, organic cotton bag and began to peruse the aisles. Carrots, radishes, berries and other produce filled stand after stand as I worked my way through the crowd, listening to customers buy their week’s worth of groceries from local vendors.

One such vendor is twenty-something Tiffany Zywiec, of Zywiec: Super Sweet Corn. Tiffany is relatively new to the farmer’s market, but Zyweic is a family business that has been selling corn here for more than 40 years. She said what keeps her coming back is that she loves “to get out and see people.”

Another stand owner at the market is Deirdre Davis of the River Chocolate Company. She and her husband, Allen, have been in business since 2002 and have won awards such as the 2007 First Place Professional Confection Competition and the 2002 Best New Food Product from “Midwest Food and Wine Experience.” Davis explained that she and her husband wanted to make desserts with “an 18th-century feel,” using fresh ingredients grown around the area. They sell products such as Holsteins, a small chocolate sandwich and Mexican Coffee, dark chocolate with cinnamon and coffee.

In fact, each person I casually chatted with over lettuce or handmade Asian trinkets said that they enjoyed coming to the farmer’s market each weekend because it supported local growers. Andrew Kay is a geologist from New York who followed his friend to the market for the first time. I pointed to his bag and asked about his purchases. He smiled and animatedly responded, “Six pounds of carrots. I’m making juice!” I asked him about his impressions of the market and he said it was “outstanding” and a “wonderful resource for the community.”

The Farmer’s Market allows people from in and around St. Paul to buy produce from local growers, rather than from supermarkets who import their produce from outside the area. Not only is this food more ecologically sustainable, it’s almost guaranteed to be fresh.

In Kay’s words, “everything looks like it should be on the cover of a magazine.” I can’t help but agree.

To visit the St. Paul Farmer’s Market, take the 63 bus from the corner of Snelling and Grand Ave, (on the Campus Center side of the street) to downtown St. Paul. Get off at the stop between 4th and 5th St. on Broadway. The market is just a few blocks down the road. I suggest bringing your own bag.