Farmers markets are favored for their locally grown produce, artisanal pantry items and farm-raised meat and cheese. And now these warm-weather events are becoming destinations for handcrafted goods of a different sort: locally produced jewelry, skin care items, handbags, fashion and even textiles.
The Mill City Farmers Market was at the forefront of this trend. It was the first in Minneapolis to invite stylish vendors such as Indigo & Snow, designer Annabella Sardelis’ line of hand-painted dresses, tops, caftans and scarves made from organic cotton, bamboo, raw silk and linen.
“Our customers call us a modern-day town square,” said restaurateur Brenda Langton, who founded the seasonal event in 2006. “We want to be a marketplace that empowers a community to support sustainable products — be it food or handmade goods.”
Mill City Farmers Market was initially pretty small, with a carefully considered mix of organic food vendors. As the event grew, its weekly mix gradually evolved to include an attractive spread of stylish modern goods by top Twin Cities designers and craftspeople. The market now features colorful, paint-dipped wooden bowls, utensils and throw pillows by Minneapolis-based Willful Goods, and distinctive waxed-canvas lunch bags, totes and wooden milk crates by product design studio WAAM Industries.
“It’s a good fit for me,” offered Instanbul-born designer Talin Spring, a regular presence at the market since 2013. “The same people who come and get their fruit and vegetables are also interested in locally made goods produced in small quantities.”
Spring specializes in crafting timeless handbags and leather goods, including bags inspired by Parisian farmers’ basket satchels. She finds the market’s informal, friendly vibe perfect for selling products like hers. “Leather is a very tactile item,” she explained. “People love touching it and commenting on how nice it smells.”
Jewelry designer Annika Kaplan is another Mill City regular, having sold her pieces there for six years. “My market customers are interested in hearing about my process and inspiration,” she explained. That includes casting each jewelry item by hand from blackened sterling silver, gold or brass. Her nature- and folk-inspired pieces are then embellished with hand-cut semiprecious stones, including lapis, agate and moonstone.
Over the past year, the selection of stylish handcrafted goods has improved at other area farmers markets. For example, the Linden Hills Farmers Market recently partnered with the Minneapolis Craft Market to introduce a rotating lineup of Twin Cities designers and makers. The Minneapolis Craft Market was founded in 2015 by Hayley Matthews-Jones, a British-born expat who styled it after London’s fabled craft markets. The organization now offers a weekly mix of goods at the Linden Hills market, including ceramics, jewelry, home goods, skin care, candles and apparel.
“We’ve found that the same people who want to know their farmer, or their coffee producer, or their local baker, also care about the other goods they bring into their home,” said Matthews-Jones. “They want to know that their clothes were made ethically, and hear the story behind the materials that went into their jewelry.”
Jahna Peloquin is a Minneapolis-based fashion, design and arts writer.