On any Wednesday afternoon during the summer, if you happen by the parking lot of St. John’s United Church of Christ, commonly known as Bongards Church, you will find a community of people surrounded by a bounty of locally grown produce, cottage foods, local crafts, and other items at the Bongards Farmers Market.
The church, located at the intersection of highway 212 and county road 51, in the heart of rural Carver County, has hosted this seasonal farmers market for ten years. The market’s mission is to build community, and through service from the body of the church with surrounding community members, strive to provide wholesome, sustainable, and nutritious food sources.
Church member Vicki Moteelall leads a small group of volunteers to make this weekly event happen. The team consists of Larry and Jeannette Bachmann, Sarah Schneewind, and Vicki whose responsibilities include greeting, assigning sites, helping vendors set up and take down canopies. They also answer questions, manage paperwork, and assure a safe environment. Michelle Bachmann maintains and updates the website and social media enabling effective communication with vendors and shoppers.
Rev. Scott Siefert, who recently joined the church as its new pastor, says, “It’s a new way of being church, of providing an extravagant welcome.”
Moteelall says the market attracts 100-300 people each week. In addition to providing an opportunity for small, local businesses and farmers to sell their goods, the market also sponsors Power of Produce Club (PoP for children 4 to 12) and Power of Produce Plus (PoP+ for adults 65+). Participants register and receive a $2 token each week as an incentive to purchase fresh local produce from market vendors. Activities (seed planting, garden rock painting, games about how plants grow), produce samples, and recipes using the vegetable or fruit of the week are offered to help PoP participants learn about and appreciate a variety of produce for a healthy diet.
This year three different food trucks, one on each market Wednesday, will add to the festivities. Additionally, we are pleased that the Good in the Hood Shoe Bus will be returning to Bongards Market on August 17.
“We know this market connects our church with folks who may never step foot into the actual walls of the church,” says Michelle Bachmann, church president. “But we want them to have a great experience and connection in our parking lot. It’s about meeting people where they’re at.”
Siefert agrees. “I kind of look at this as us being a way for us to go out and be in community, to walk our talk. Like pollinators of the spirit!”