Mankato farmers market

Mankato Farmers' Market vendors will be set up in Old Town on Thursdays this year. File photo

MANKATO — Mankato Farmers' Market and the Extension Service are hoping to join a national effort to introduce kids to more fresh produce.

"The kids, ages 2-12, would go to the Farmers' Market in Old Town and sign up. They get a $2 token to spend on fresh fruits, vegetables and food plants," said Farmers' Market President Diane Dunham.

To launch the Power of Produce Club, organizers are hoping to raise $2,400, with people asked to sponsor $24 for one child, or donate more if they wish.

The money would reimburse the market vendors who get tokens from the kids.

"We hope we can start it in June when the Old Town market starts," Dunham said. "But we may not have a lot of produce yet because a lot of our growers aren't getting things planted yet, so it could be in July."

She said that at other markets that have the PoP Club, vendors often put together a mix of items in a $2 bag for the kids to buy.

Members of the University of Minnesota Extension and other groups would be at the market to give the kids tokens and other information.

Kelly Kunkel, regional Extension educator, said the program would fit well with other efforts they have, including the Roots, Shoots and Boots program.

"We're really committed to have food access for everyone and this ties in with that nicely," Kunkel said.

Roots, Shoots and Boots, the Mankato-North Mankato food network, partners with a number of area groups to promote fresh and local food sources for all.

She said that if the PoP Club is funded, Extension would offer a fun educational aspect for kids each week. "The first week we'll be planting seeds in egg cartons."

Other weeks would feature activities like veggie printing, vegetable bingo, a salsa scavenger hunt, bee night and name that herb.

Also helping at the markets would be members of Blue Earth and Nicollet County SHIP, Wooden Spoon bakery, Living Earth Center, Minnesota Valley Action Council, Region Nine and Feeding Our Communities Partners.

This is the first year the Farmers' Market will be in the downtown area on Thursdays, in addition to their long-standing Saturdays and Tuesdays site at the Best Buy parking lot.

The market will be at the Food Hub, 512 North Riverfront Drive, from 3:30-6 p.m. Thursdays, beginning June 6. The vendors will be at Best Buy from 3:30-6 p.m. Tuesdays and 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.

The market has about 50 members, but the Thursday events will likely attract a smaller number of vendors.

Follow Tim Krohn on Twitter @TimKrohn

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