The site of the Pelican Rapids Farm Market, with Ryan Pesch, who is spearheading the market, and Judy Tabbut, of the Mercantile on Main. The Pelican Rapids city-owned lot is located on a sidewalk from the downtown business district to the city park system.

Plans for a Farm Market in Pelican Rapids are quickly taking shape—including Amish crafted wood stands. 

Taking the lead on the project is Ryan Pesch, a rural Lake Lida area grower who has been active in farm markets and alternative agriculture. 

A couple of downtown Pelican Rapids sites have been discussed, but Pesch narrowed sights on a city owned lot—between the Seifert Realty offices and Big John’s Pelican Pizza. He brought the plan to the city council meeting March 9, and the council approved use of the lot. 

Pesch is personally investing in the project, including $12,000 for four timber-framed farm stands that will be positioned on the lot. The structures will be built by Levi Hershberger, of an Amish community near Aldrich. 

A three-year agreement was requested by Pesch, in order to give the project a three season test run. 

With material and installation help from Pelican-based Lake Region Electric Cooperative, a rustic “Pelican Market” archway sign will be installed on cedar posts—visible to the well-traveled Hwy 59-Main Street. 

“The goal is to kick up activity in the downtown business core—on an unused lot,” said Pesch. 

Numerous vendors and growers have committed or pledged to join the market. 

Friday nights, from 4-7 p.m. will be the promoted time frame, though other vendors may fill in the site on other days of the week. 

Friday late afternoon-evenings are aimed to catch the heavy traffic to the lakes area, which is a steady stream in the summer. 

The site will also be available for use for other community groups or  activities, said Pesch.  The market is intended for local grower, producers, produce canners and “cottage” businesses. The site will not be open to typical clothing or souvenir merchandise-type vendors.

Pelican’s community gardens have been successful, with virtually every plot put into production. Councilman Curt Markgraf noted that some local community garden growers may choose to bring surplus to the market and sell. 

Downtown Pelican has had scattered farm market vendors along main street, but the intent is to consolidate them into a prescribed area. With the 2024 Highway 59-108 reconstruction, the city is anticipating MnDOT limits on sidewalk vending—beyond storefront merchants with outdoor displays. By narrowing in on a specific downtown market area in 2021, it would set the stage for the highway project—and for the future, noted Don Solga, city adminitrator. 

“MnDOT may eliminate sidewalk vending,” said Solga, of the state right-of-way. “The market would provide space for them downtown, but move them off the sidewalk to this space.” 

Councilman Steve Strand was hesitant to give the green light, before consulting with some downtown businesses—favoring a delay on a vote until the next council meeting. 

“I’d like to see one more meeting on the subject,” said Strand. “I’d like to get feedback from business people.”

But the council proceeded with a motion and vote. 

“Here’s a guy that is willing to invest in the community…Let’s help him get this going,” said Councilman Steve Foster. 

“Ryan has done a lot of work on this behind the scenes,” said Mayor Brent Frazier, who favored moving forward. Frazier also noted that the market does not really create direct competition with retailers, but rather will be an added draw. 

“A draw to the farm market will be a draw to other downtown businesses,” said Councilman Markgraf. 

Green Thumb worker planned for Pelican

There will be a new face in town, working in Pelican Rapids through the “Green Thumb” program. 

An approximate 32 hour per week staffer will be enlisted to assist with the marketing and organizing the proposed Farm Market, community gardens and other related initiatives. The Green Thumb program is through the state, and salary will be at no direct cost to the city. The Green Thumb worker was among the ideas generated in the “Local Foods, Local Places” discussions.

If the grant is approved, the worker will be on board this spring. Acting as the local administration for the Green Thumb program will be the Welcome Place. 

The Green Thumb worker will assist with “Local Food, Local Places” goals that have been identified, including: 

• More economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses

• Better access to healthy, local food—especially among disadvantaged groups

• Revitalized downtowns and main streets 

Pelican Rapids was one of 16 communities in the nation selected for the “Local Foods” grant program.