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Minnesota artist designed new farmers market postage stamps

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An artist from Minnesota has her work in the national spotlight, as the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a new series of stamps she illustrated which celebrate the popularity of farmers markets.

The four stamps created by Robin Moline of Lakelend, Minnesota, feature different products you'd find at a typical farmers market such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, cheese, baked goods and cut flowers.

The stamps were unveiled Thursday at a ceremony in Washington D.C., which Moline attended.

The Postal Service says it decided to highlight farmers markets with the new stamp series because of their resurgence in popularity.

"Farmers markets are an old idea that’s new again," the agency said. "Considered by many to be the new town square, farmers markets offer, as they did in the past, a gathering place for diverse groups of neighbors to meet and mingle and to share news, recipes, and stories—in short, to create a new sense of community."

Moline's challenge, along with USPS art director Greg Breeding, was to capture that sentiment in drawings that would translate well to the small "canvas" of a postage stamp. The two of them worked together for about a year, and a USPS blog explains the creative process they went through to come up with the final designs for the stamps.

Farmers markets have been growing in popularity in recent years, as more consumers are interested in buying locally grown foods. The Minnesota Grown directory of farmers markets lists 143 of them throughout Minnesota this year, compared with 100 markets five years ago, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

On a national level, there are more than 6,000 farmers markets tracked by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly 1,000 more than five years ago.

Moline has been an illustrator for 30 years, according to the Pioneer Press; she's done work for a variety of commercial clients, and illustrated the covers for the "Harmony" book series which was published between 2000-2006.

The USPS unveils several new stamp designs each year, and while the farmers market stamps are not likely to cause any consternation, a Janis Joplin stamp released just a day later is getting some pushback.

A former postmaster general said the agency is "prostituting" its stamp program with commercial images, the Washington Post reports. Benjamin F. Bailar wrote a letter to the current postmaster general saying the stamp program has turned away from culturally significant subjects in favor of pop culture.

The debate within the postal service became public in November, when the USPS released a series of stamps honoring Harry Potter.

“The stamp program should celebrate the things that are great about the United States and serve as a medium to communicate those things to a world-wide audience,” wrote Bailar in his letter, dated July 23. “To prostitute that goal in the pursuit of possibly illusory profits does not make sense to me.”

The postal service is leaning toward more popular culture in its stamp designs, to attract more young people to use and collect stamps, officials told the Washington Post.

"We have to go where they live," said Janet Klug, who chairs the stamp committee.

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