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New awards: Best places to buy locally grown food in Minnesota

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Foodies and environmentalists have been beating the "eat local" drum for years, but where can you go to get the best regionally grown grub?

Here's a new list, courtesy of the Minnesota Grocers Association, which is recognizing the grocery stores most committed to offering locally grown products.

On Wednesday, just in time for the Minnesota spring planting season, the recipients of the third annual "Minnesota Grown Retailer of the Year" awards were announced during the industry group's annual luncheon.

Here are the winners in the four categories:

– Single Store: Mackenthun's Fine Foods in Waconia
– Retail group of nine stores or less: Twin Cities-based Festival Foods
– Retail group of 10-plus stores: Edina-based Lunds and Byerlys
– People's Choice display award: Marketplace Foods in Moose Lake

"These grocers have done an amazing job of making it easy for their customers to find and purchase locally grown foods. This is great for our local economy and our farmers and it gives people a convenient way to eat healthy," Minnesota Grown spokesperson and 2004 Olympian, Carrie Tollefson, said in a press release.

Winning entries are picked based on the number of "Minnesota Grown" products and the number of Minnesota farmers the grocer carries. Judges also consider how the grocers promote the products to their customers through ads, displays and the use of social media.

Post by Festival Foods.

Winners receive a commemorative plaque and exclusive rights to use the "Minnesota Grown Retailer of the Year" logo in their ads and displays for the next year.

This isn't the first time these retailers have gotten the nod. In 2012 and 2013, Lunds and Byerlys, Mackenthun's and Festival Foods all earned the award, according to the Shelby Report and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The People's Choice display award was new for this year, the grocers association says.

Minnesota Grown is a statewide partnership between the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and Minnesota producers of specialty crops and livestock to help differentiate local producers' products from competitors' produce grown thousands of miles away, Minnesota Grown's website says.

The program, which was created over 20 years ago, now has over 1,100 members that includes farmers' markets, CSA farms, garden centers, wineries, fruit and vegetable growers, livestock and meat producers, Christmas tree growers, and producers of other products.

Interested in locally grown products that are currently in season? Minnesota Grown has a chart for that – starting in May, bedding plants will be in peak season, while asparagus, green onions, radishes, rhubarb and spinach are nearing peak season.

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