Local merchants create home

Who knew there was a place right next to Concordia’s campus with alpacas, vegetables, and hamburgers all in the same place? I certainly didn’t until my lovely roommates dragged my butt out of bed last Saturday morning to check out Fargo’s farmers market, the Red River Market. The three of us rented Cobb Bikes from the Carl B. and headed out to see what the market had to offer.

Fargo’s Red River Market is an annual farmers market off of Broadway Avenue filled with local art, food, and clothing that happens from July to October every Saturday morning. Even though this is my second year as a Concordia student, before last weekend I had never taken the opportunity to cross the river on the weekends. After this past weekend, I realized how much I had missed last fall. The market greeted me and my roommates with delicious smells and friendly shoppers. The layout of the market itself was also visually appealing, with various types of booths lining the perimeter of the asphalt.

Before seeing the market with my own eyes, I thought there would only be local produce sold, as is the norm for a lot of farmers markets I’ve attended. You can imagine how taken aback I was when I was greeted with alpacas and not cucumbers. A local alpaca ranch nestled outside of Fargo had a tent right next to the entrance with two fluffy alpacas waiting to be pet by eager shoppers. A little down the line was the produce I was expecting, but in addition there were food trucks, baked goods, homemade soaps, mugs, clothing, and dog treats—basically anything that can be homemade or grown was available.

I purchased a zestar apple from a produce booth and munched on it while my friends and I checked out the sights. Aside from the sheer variety of items, I noticed the friendliness of the locals. I interacted with both vendors and shoppers, and everyone I spoke with was excited to be there and more than happy to engage in conversation. College students often don’t get the opportunity to interact with people who aren’t other college students or professors. It’s always a breath of fresh air to talk to someone outside of an educational context.

So what’s the point of this little narrative? Aside from informing you about the presence of the Red River Market, I want to emphasize the importance of supporting our local artists and vendors. In a lot of ways, the market is an inconvenient place to buy your groceries or household items. It’s only once a week at a very specific time, goods are usually more expensive, and sometimes it takes a while to purchase your items if a booth has lots of interest. Why would you go to a farmers’ market when Target exists right down the street?

For starters, quality. Farmers market produce will always be superior to something that can be store bought when it comes to taste and overall nutrition. Produce grown locally does not undergo the process of genetic modification or hormone infusion and they aren’t grown with pesticides like a lot of produce found in stores. Farmers market apples might look a little different than the perfect, shiny ones found in stores, but a little variety never hurt anyone.

Buying local food is also so much better for the environment. Have you ever thought about how much fuel it takes to ship food across not only state borders but oceans as well? Over the course of a year, transporting goods by airplane roughly requires 70,000 tons of carbon dioxide. That number is equivalent to more than 12,000 cars driving on the road. Food transportation also releases 6,000 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides into the air, the same amount as close to 300 power plants. Shipping food requires an enormous amount of packaging from cardboard boxes and plastic vacuum seals. By buying locally, we stop contributing to excess trash and pollution.

Above all, supporting local merchants builds and facilitates community. Moving to a new place can be scary, but by engaging with locally owned businesses, I have made the Fargo-Moorhead area my new home. Fargo-Moorhead is filled with local art, food, and music just waiting to be taken advantage of. I never knew how much I would miss Fargo’s coffee shops, bubble tea, or donuts until I was away from them for three months. It’s easy to get caught up in the swing of things on Concordia’s campus, but we have to remember that just down the road is a place bustling with creativity.

So, this weekend I encourage you to get out into the community and see the sights at the Red River Market. I recommend the apples!

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