At the beginning of the semester I, like many WSU students, relocated to a new apartment and got settled in a slightly different part of town. Since then, I’ve discovered new neighbors, new shortcuts to campus and a new set of Winona locations that I like to visit regularly. Among these discoveries came a love for the local (and suddenly conveniently located) Farmer’s Market downtown.

I visited the market on a whim one Wednesday after class and walked away with a purse full of tomatoes and a bag of locally grown apples. They were gone by Saturday (I actually ate the tomatoes over the course of about 3 hours) so of course I had to return. The Saturday market was even larger. I restocked on what I’d eaten earlier in the week and returned home with an array of cheap, healthy food that put my previous diet of cereal and mac & cheese to shame. After that second visit, I made it a habit to visit the market weekly. This last Saturday was especially festive as the Humane Society was hosting a bake sale. I bought 20 cookies for a dollar. I couldn’t help it, I’m weak against sprinkles.  I almost bought a few cupcakes as well but I resisted. Barely. I asked to take pictures of the sale and The Humane Society said of course, so long as I reminded readers to help the community by spaying and neutering their pets.  So here is your reminder, readers: spay and neuter your pets!

There’s a huge array of variety at the weekend market that includes anything from multicolored peppers to plants you can purchase and replant at home. The market has this pleasant buzz of energy all around as locals shop and converse, plus on most Saturdays there is often some sort of live music being played in a central tent. It’s like a carnival. I love the Farmer’s Market largely for this atmosphere; everyone is working toward a single goal of promoting local organizations and local individuals. It’s a very concentrated sense of community.

I know many friends that say that they would eat better if healthy food were more affordable, and I know I’ve said the same. If you’ve ever looked at your pantry and felt an acute sense of dread about the state of your diet (again, guilty) it is definitely worth checking out. The market is set up twice a week, Wednesdays from 4pm to 7pm and Saturdays from 7:30am to 12pm. It’s on 2nd and Main Street, to the immediate left of the Winona 7 Theater if that helps any of you. This weekend may be a great time to go if you haven’t had a chance before since this Saturday is College Day! Farmer’s Market and WSU’s Sustainability Committee are teaming up to show college students what foods the market offers, how to stretch your dollar at the market and the advantages of buying locally grown food. There will be information packets with easy healthy recipes, an artisan market, and a tasting contest with prizes, all set to a soundtrack provided by local musician Mike Munsen. Oh, and did I mention that there will also be special discounts for students and a Blooming Grounds gift card giveaway?!

College Day at the Farmer’s Market is just one of the events planned for WSU’s Family Weekend, and I expect the market to be bustling students, their families and Farmer’s Market regulars. I encourage you all to get yourselves downtown early on Saturday morning and check it out. If you really can’t make it (darn those pesky work schedules!), send a roommate to check it out for you! That’s why you have a roommate right? Put them to work and get some delicious and healthy fruit and veggies!