LANESBORO, Minn. – The Lanesboro City Council on Monday night heard a citizen’s plea to work out a solution for local Amish vendors who were forced to move out of their traditional spot in the town’s main park when they were asked to buy liability insurance.
The request ran counter to Amish beliefs and customs, and led to a split between Amish and other vendors who for years had together sold baskets, farm goods and craftwork in Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park to weekend tourists.
“I would like to see this resolved,” said Mary Bell, one of the original founders of the Lanesboro Farmer’s Market in this scenic southeast Minnesota town. She said the Amish believed they had permission to sell at the park under their own authority.
At least one Amish family now sets up their weekend stand at the Lanesboro town dam, which is on state land. It’s their second summer of doing so after the town’s request was made in late 2013. Another Amish family rents space from a private landowner along Lanesboro’s main commercial strip. The farmers market has remained at Lanesboro’s Sylvan Park, but without any Amish vendors.
“I don’t like it,” said Lanesboro Farmers Market market manager Stena Lieb. Speaking in the hallway after the City Council meeting to four Amish farmers who were present Monday night, Lieb said everyone has suffered as a result of the split. “We’ve lost business; I know you guys have lost business,” she said to the Amish vendors, who nodded. “We have people coming and blaming us all the time. And they ask where the Amish are and we tell them where to find you guys.”
Vendor Emily Funke said she and other current vendors don’t see a way around the insurance requirement. She said not everyone has agreed with them.
“We feel like we were put in the middle of it,” she said. She told the Amish farmers who were at Monday’s meeting that she would check with a Rochester Amish family who sells at that town’s farmers market to see if there was a solution that would work in Lanesboro.
The City Council took no action on the issue Monday, but Mayor Robin Krom said he would like to gather more information.