Maybe word is spreading like a well-needed rain shower and the downtown Mankato Farmers' Market will survive on Thursdays after all.
The July 23 market started off with a full parking lot and long lines of customers waiting to buy produce and crafts from vendors. Unfortunately, that hasn't been the case most of the season and organizers are mulling over packing it up and heading for the hill.
It's our hope the market can remain downtown once a week. A lot of thought and effort was put into getting the Mankato Farmers' Market there. Organizers worked hard to find a good fit, consulting with city and business leaders and even doing a few trial runs.
But the Old Town location at The Hub food truck park hasn't been drawing as many customers as last season. Sales are down for that market at an estimated 50%.
And surprisingly, in this instance, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic is not to blame for low attendance. Market officers say the Saturday market in the Best Buy lot is especially going strong this year with safety guidelines in place and customers eager to show up.
Not only does it make sense for the market to set up downtown weekly to help draw attention to other nearby merchants, but the site also should attract some of the more elderly, low-income or vehicle-free customers who may be able to get to Old Town more easily than to the hilltop where the Saturday and Tuesday markets are.
The enthusiastic turnout last Thursday as the market opened was good to see, considering the dismal attendance so far. Maybe as news travels that the downtown site is in trouble, customers are realizing how important it is to have regular access in the valley to products from vendors who work and live in the area. Buying at the market is a big way to shop small.
Purchasing local goods doesn't get much better than shopping at the Farmers' Market, especially if it means a bag of fresh green beans and hand-sown pot holders to take those steamed veggies off the stove 10 minutes after you get home.
The Thursday markets, for now anyway, are 3:30- 6 p.m. at The Hub, 512 N. Riverfront Drive.