Mobile farmers market brings fresh produce to Payne-Phalen neighborhood

The nonprofit Urban Roots has launched a mobile farmers market to increase access to fresh produce in the Payne-Phalen neighborhood.

Produce harvested from six gardens throughout the city will be offered for sale from 1 to 3 p.m. Fridays through Aug. 20 in the Arlington Hills Library parking lot.

The nonprofit, which focuses on urban gardening, food preparation and natural resource conservation, employs 75 young people, ages 14-24, through the Right Track employment program. Twenty-one of them work for the market garden program.

“Youth grow produce and also kind of do everything from seed to sale. And so they’ve done everything from helping plant starts … to growing it, maintaining it and selling it at markets,” Executive Director Hayley Ball said.

Ninety-seven percent of the youth workers are Black, Indigenous or people of color, said Sara Johnson, the development and events manager. The workers get workforce training and career skill-building and gain an understanding of local food systems, she said.

Zarea Mobley, 19, has worked at Urban Roots for six years. She started in the market program, then became a harvester.

“When I finally worked my way up to that position, it made me feel I accomplished something big because I was going to be the one who was telling people, ‘These weeds are bad, and these weeds are supposed to be like this.’ It was super cool being able to have that experience of actually knowing the gardens,” she said.

Mobley now is an administrative assistant and a market program alum. She says she has a better understanding of the world’s issues because of the market program.

“I feel like it made me want to, careerwise, help out the community a lot more, because there are a lot of things in the world, in St. Paul, Minnesota, that still needs to be fixed and needs change,” Mobley said.

The organization kicked off the market with a grand opening Saturday at the Rivoli Bluffs Farm and Restoration area.

Among other payment types, the market accepts SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). And customers who use their SNAP-EBT cards can get an extra $10 in produce through the Market Bucks matching program.

Available produce includes napa cabbage, radishes, lettuce greens, arugula, carrots and beets.

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