Mankato Magazine

Page 38

we brainstormed the name, and that’s what we came up with, because we’re a little bit of everything,” said Page. Page isn’t the only one for whom the Market is a family business. Vice President Tim Guldan owes his start to his mother, who showed up in the early 1990s with a card table, strawberries, and some fresh kohlrabi. Now, as Guldan likes to joke, the Guldan Family Farms shows up at the market with the alphabet of produce: Everything from asparagus to zucchini. For Guldan, who has been visiting the stand since he was very young, the Market feels like home. “I grew up at the farmer’s market – I was one of the little runts running around the lampposts and climbing into trees,” said Gulden. “One of my favorite memories was claiming my own tree at Madison East [where the Market used to be held]. There was this purplish tree that was right behind our stand and it’s still there. Whenever I drive down Madison Avenue, I say, ‘There’s my tree!’ I bet there’s not another kid in Mankato who’s spent as much time in that tree as I did.” Nowadays, Guldan’s focus is running his family’s booth rather than climbing the nearby shrubbery. A schoolteacher during the fall and spring semesters, Guldan spends the warmer months getting the farm’s 50 or so varieties of produce ready for sale and he has plenty of help. His kids and wife often come to the Market to help with sales, and his parents still pitch in when they can. “In passing a few years back, I had mentioned to someone that, because a lot of our board was up for reelection, that I wasn’t all that interested in it due to the amount of time it could entail, I would be willing [to be a board member] if no one else was,” Guldan said. “I wasn’t able to make the next meeting and it turns out that when no one said that they were interested in the Vice President role, another person said, ‘Well, Tim said he would do it!’ My dad, who was at the meeting, said ‘Sure, nominate him!’” The unexpected nomination was almost nine years ago, and Guldan still enjoys helping to promote and expand the Market in addition to his sales duties. He, Dunham and Page all said that the community aspect of each Market is what keeps them excited to set up shop every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. “To me, it’s all about the relationships between the customers and growers,” Guldan said. “This past Saturday, I

had my head under the table filling something, and I heard a voice, and I instantly knew who that customer was. We have so many of those relationships where people have said that they remember me from being that little pipsqueak in the corn trailer, watching me grow, and now seeing my toddlers and son filling that role that I had when I was younger.” The friendship also extends to from seller to seller. Guldan and his fellow vendors make a point of hitting up each other’s booths for goods and often choose to trade a bundle of radishes for a log of goat cheese or to make similar swaps. Another benefit of buying local in a community-driven organization is knowing exactly where each lettuce, strawberry, or ear of sweet corn was sourced. The vendors encourage questions about how their products were grown or produced. The open communication between seller and buyer contributes to a fiercely loyal consumer base. To enhance their customers’ overall experience, the board members often try to find entertainment options for Market days.

“We have music nearly every Saturday, and sometimes two musicians – one at one end of the Market and one at the other,” Dunham said. “We always have something for the kids. Right now, it’s a take-and-make project. Before COVID, we had a gal that did glitter tattoos for them, or sometimes a balloon tier. That person is a paid employee and is funded by the vendors.” The idea of giving back to the customers stems from an overall feeling of gratitude for 30-plus years and some recent record sales, especially during the COVID crisis. Page, Dunham and Guldan all agreed that their stand activity stayed unusually high throughout the pandemic. “It was a surprisingly fantastic year,” said Dunham. “I think we picked up a lot of new customers because there was less to do last year. That might have driven people initially, but I think they stayed because of the fun of the market.” “I love meeting people and having them come back and tell me about the goods they loved or the pottery pieces they bought,” Page said. “I love knowing how much they appreciate us and that they’ll come back.”

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