backroads sprout market

Sprout Marketplace holds a winter growers and makers market in at the old boat factory in Little Falls once a month from October to March. The market features 30 to 40 vendors — selling everything from lamb and beef to pickled spicy green beans to handmade rugs to jams and jellies to birdhouses to goat milk soap to Amish-made cherry pies to fresh eggs. There is even a woodworker selling custom-made wooden coffins (which some teenage shoppers think is pretty funny).

The five-hour-long Saturday market is a monthly celebration Little Falls residents and visitors from around central Minnesota have come to look forward to. Every market day includes live entertainment. A recent market featured energetic African drummers as well as drumming workshops for adults and children. Since the market has a fully-certified kitchen, each market day also features a different chef serving lunch. On the day we visited, Mogadishu Meat and Grocery from St. Cloud was serving barbecued beef and camel, spicy and not-so-spicy curried rice, vegetables and sambusas with vegetable or beef filling.

“The sambusas are almost as good as my mother’s,” a Somali boy having lunch said.

Lunch was followed by a cooking demonstration by chef Said Rashid who prepared a dish with mixed Italian and African roots. The Sprout kitchen is designed with special windows for observers to watch while chefs create their delicacies in the kitchen.

When the old boat factory, turned marketplace and kitchen, isn’t hosting 500-600 visitors on market day, it’s serving as a food collection site or food hub. With Sprouts walk-in coolers and freezers, the organization serves as a connection between more than 80 area farmers and wholesale buyers, restaurants and schools. They also serve as a coordinator for a Community Supported Agriculture project which serves multiple customers — including three hospitals and numerous farmers.

Many of those farmers show up on market days to make their crops and products available to a wider audience. Some of the farmers include Kate Ritger from Just Food Collective, who will let you sample her canned salsas and vegetables before you buy them; Cold Spring’s the Cookie Lady with their delicious ginger snaps; Lynn Mizner, who has natural-colored yarn and sheep skins from her rare Black Welsh Mountain Sheep; or Early Boots Farm with their grass-fed beef. Find the market schedule at sproutmn.com.