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Sprout features Leech Lake Band food, art, storytelling

LITTLE FALLS—In just one month after receiving the Artplace America grant to transform the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace, 609 13th Ave. NE, Door 8, Little Falls, into a cultural and destination food hub rooted in economic development and placemaking goals for our region, Sprout has charged ahead and geared up for its second cultural gathering Feb. 25, focused on the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe food, art, and culture.

This month's cultural performance is a storyteller from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe community who will share the cultural significance behind smoking and preserving food. Values, humor, truth and history are transmitted through stories in Native American culture, and the oral tradition is reserved for winter months for many tribes to teach and entertain children during the long, cold months.

"Winter is the appropriate time for storytelling," said Eva Wilson, chairperson of the Cass Lake Local Indian Council, lifelong resident of LLBO, a well-known art activist, and a core member of Sprout's creative placemaking team. "When the snow is on the ground, the spirits are sleeping. Only then can we talk about them."

In a collaborative cooking demonstration in the Marketplace's kitchen, LLBO community members and Chef Matt Annand of Prairie Bay will prepare a culturally specific recipe, and Marketplace visitors can sample the culinary creation and enjoy a lunch catered by Prairie Bay.

Last month's event focused on youth as a culture and featured a young cellist, vendors under 25, woodworking, and high school students working alongside Chef Matt Annand in the demonstration kitchen.

Next month's market on March 25 will feature regional growers and food producers as a culture. The public is encouraged to recommend local vendors, demonstrators, performers, chefs, artists, etc. who are willing to share and showcase the cultural significance found within our farming communities. Later in the year, the market will spotlight Somali, Latino and Amish communities and also host training workshops for growers and makers to learn skills for grant writing, business planning, strategic marketing and more.

Guests are invited to shop the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace vendors selling local food and art on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 25, March 25, Oct. 28, Nov. 18 and Dec. 9. During these markets, through visual and performing art performances, culinary demonstrations, educational events and more, Sprout will showcase our community's assets and talents found amongst the variety of cultures across the region, in which the public can participate or attend. In the months of May, June, July and August, the Marketplace will host cultural exchange cooking classes, educational opportunities for growers and artists, and dinner events to support nonprofit organizations.

The activities are funded through a grant awarded to the Region Five Development Commission by ArtPlace America's National Creative Placemaking Fund. Arlene Jones, General Manager of Sprout, explained, "The ArtPlace funds will offer the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace and our partners the support needed to host the expansion of economic opportunities, social cohesion, and learning for local growers, artists, makers, producers, chefs and the public. Through a collection of culturally specific activities, we will establish Sprout as a destination where food, art, and culture meet."

Additionally, as part of its placemaking strategy, Sprout and partners will build out the Marketplace's physical space over the next three years using commissioned functional art from local artists, with priority granted to Latino, Somali, Amish, Grower, Youth and Tribal communities. These pieces will be revealed at monthly markets and events.

Interested shoppers, growers, artists, chefs, and educators who want to learn more, visit and follow the Sprout Growers & Makers Marketplace on Facebook.