With nearly 70 farmers markets across the Twin Cities metro area, we're a lucky bunch: In-season produce is never far away. These bustling bazaars support local growers, who can also serve as market mentors, making unfamiliar edibles a little less intimidating. But these markets are more than fruits and vegetables. Many budding entrepreneurs start here, testing everything from bagels to empanadas on hungry customers before launching into restaurants or full-blown food companies. At the market, the tastes — and the possibilities — are endless.

Making the case for markets

Pam Benike Prairie Hollow Farm in Elgin, Minn., at the Mill City Farmers Market

"Environmentally, it makes sense to buy food locally. Think of the number of miles that food travels by the time it gets to the supermarket. If you buy your food locally, studies have shown that you'll be cutting those miles to one-tenth of what they would be if you were shopping at the supermarket."

Belén Rodríguez founder of Quebracho Empanadas, at six area markets as well as local stores and co-ops

"I think farmers markets are essential to building relationships and helping your local community thrive, especially in this new COVID-19 era. For us, farmers markets are the place where we connect with our customers and where we get to tell them about our product and our story."

Stacey Yang Yang family farm in Rosemount, at the Minneapolis Farmers Market

"This is where you get the best food. It's so fresh, and beautiful, and the selection is different as you go through the season. You get to be outdoors, and I think it's great to come just for the people, the vendors and the customers. It's very family-oriented."

Mary Falk LoveTree Farmstead in Grantsburg, Wis., at the St. Paul and Kingfield farmers markets

"Where else can you get high-quality food, directly from the producer, at affordable prices? There isn't another job that's harder than farming. Farmers love what they're doing, and that passion comes through in their products."