By Rick Nelson
Sometimes the rewards of popularity are monetary. Witness the “Love Your Farmers Market” contest, conducted by LocalHarvest.org, a California-based local foods website.
Shoppers nationwide are being encouraged to log on, sign in and cast their vote for their favorite farmers market. When polls close on Sept. 17, the top vote-getter will receive $5,000 (that's not an insignificant sum for what are often a budget-strapped, grass roots efforts), and the top four runners-up will split a $7,000 purse. In addition, there’s a weekly random drawing where markets with at least five votes are eligible to win $250, and the 10 voters who recruit the greatest number of friends to participate in the process will receive $50 to spend at their favorite local farmers market.
Voting started June 19th, and the site keeps a running tally of the top 100 vote-getters. As of Tuesday night, Minneapolis’ own Midtown Farmers Market was No. 6 with 1,283 votes. By comparison, the top spot is currently owned by the Flint Farmers Market in Flint, Mich., with 3,147 votes. Just three other Minnesota markets have currently cracked the top 100: the Bloomington Farmers Market (No. 66, with 188 votes), the Minneapolis Farmers Market (No. 96, with 138 votes) and the Mill City Farmers Market (No. 100, with 135 votes).
Voting is easy; I think I spent all of 60 seconds casting my ballot (I won’t say where my vote landed). The site links to more than 100 eligible Minnesota markets, it asks for very little information — name, email address, ZIP code — and then asks for a testimonial. Shoppers gush away.
"It has been an amazing vehicle for us," said Gerry Tyrrell, a Midtown Farmers Market volunteer. "We now have more than a thousand public testimonials that demonstrate the power of the market as a community asset. We're hoping that we get into the top five. We're in striking distance."
Go Midtown, right? So what are you waiting for? With a few clicks and keystrokes, you could help make your favorite market a winner.