Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

From Farmington, Part I: A quick look at downtown August 7, 2018


ON ONE OF THE FIRST warm weekends of spring here in Minnesota, Randy and I stopped in Farmington, a south metro community we’ve visited once prior. It was the kind of sunny late April afternoon ideal for meandering with my camera.





Farmington, given its nearness to the Twin Cites and population of 22,000-plus, surprises me with its small town feel. At least in the downtown business district. Here primarily professional services businesses and bars and restaurants occupy space along with minimal retail and government services.



We popped into two gift shops, but otherwise simply walked through the downtown. On this afternoon, steak on the grill—from the Farmington Steak House and the VFW Steak Fry—scented the gusty winds. Had it been any other time of day than mid-afternoon, we would have been tempted to dine at one or the other. We weren’t even hungry for ice cream from Cow Interrupted! Ice Cream Studio. Next visit.




Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2014.


Around the corner and a block away from the ice cream shop, this town’s agricultural roots remain visible in an aged grain elevator and grain bins. In too many communities, such vintage elevators have deteriorated or disappeared. I hope Farmington folks understand the historic and aesthetic value of these structures, real assets to the downtown.





Likewise the Lion’s Club street clock that marks a stunning brick building anchoring a corner in the heart of the business district. I love that clock. And the historic building.



And the mural on the side of the Farmington Steak House.





I delighted, too, in the humor of local marketing and the handwritten note posted by the barber. These are the details that give a town character, that personalize a place, that make me want to return.



HOW ABOUT YOU? What draws your interest in a community if you are viewing it for the first time during a pop-in visit?

CHECK BACK TOMORROW for a closer look at that Steak House mural as I publish a second post that has been in draft for a few months.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


26 Responses to “From Farmington, Part I: A quick look at downtown”

  1. Ruth Says:

    I enjoyed your meandering. The skies so blue. Cow Interrupted is a wild name.

    • I miss my meandering with my camera. I cannot wait until my left hand/wrist is strong enough to hold my DSLR again. I am, unfortunately, a long way from reaching that goal as I remain on a no lifting, pulling, pushing ban… I can type and exercise my hand and that’s about it. Strength training has not even begun nearly two months out from breaking my wrist. Eventually I’ll get back to photography.

      • Ruth Says:

        Sounds like a long healing process, Audrey. I look forward to your return to photography as well. ❤️

      • It’s a much longer healing process than recovering from a broken shoulder, which I had last summer. But that did’t require surgery like my broken wrist did.

        Will I forget how to photograph?

      • Ruth Says:

        It will be like riding a bicycle. Sorry it takes so long

      • I expect you are correct. At least I was able to talk shop last evening during snack time at Vacation Bible School with the volunteer photographer, a job I was supposed to be doing. But I’m a crew leader, which is much easier and also a great deal of fun interacting directly with a great group of kids.

      • Ruth Says:

        I bet you’re a great crew leader!

      • I had so much fun being a crew leader. One of my kids asked if I would be teaching Sunday School. I’m not. But I took that as a positive. I really connected with my kids in 10 hours. Great group, each with their own personalities. And they were so helpful, opening doors for me, pulling and opening our drawstring bag, getting me a chair, handing out the thank you cards I wrote for all the volunteer leaders… It was a joy to spend time with these kids for five evenings.

      • Ruth Says:

        How wonderful you had such positive interaction with the young people

  2. Claudette Says:

    We actually have a neighbourhood called Long Branch nearby… 🙂 Lovely pictures!

  3. I try to look for the vibe of a place on first visit – the place, the people, the community, the history, the little details, etc. I like to explore by foot to see the details – architecture, art, signage, etc. I like going into the shops or peeking through the shop windows. I have had many great conversations taking a seat at the local watering hole. Cannot wait to see more details. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  4. Omfnews Says:

    I would love to visit this vicinity someday

  5. Almost Iowa Says:

    Love the second to the last photo.

    The thing I miss most about the old close-knit urban neighborhoods and small towns is the single chair barbershop. Half the joy of it was the wait. My large family didn’t have the extra cash to subscribe to LOOK, LIFE and TIME magazine – but somehow we had the money for haircuts (until my dad decided to start cutting the boys hair himself – and that was a ten year long rolling disaster).

    Still, reading magazines, talking sports, hearing neighborhood gossip – then getting buzzed by a guy who was actually interested in what you were interested in and wanted to know what you wanted in life…..that was a joy.

    Whenever my wife and I go out and about, I always keep a couple of bills in my wallet and an eye out for the red and white stripped pole.

    • I agree with you on the value of those barbershops. I used to go with my dad and sit while Louie Lieske cut his hair. After, Louie would always hand me a Tootsie Roll.

      If you want to know anything about a community, ask a barber.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        Oooooo, Tootsie Rolls, I’ve got to find a barber like that!

        I heard it something like this, the only people who truly know what is happening in a community are the pharmacist, the minister, the doctor and the cop – but only the barber and hair-dresser will tell you about it.

      • The barbershop in my hometown is no longer there. Louie died. And now Harlan retired.

        Yes, the barber and hair-dresser (that term dates us) are not bound by confidentiality.

  6. Lovely small town life. Thanks for sharing Audrey. Love your pictures. I want that clock in my front yard! 🙂

  7. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    Stunning architecture! Cow interrupted is a great name

  8. Littlesundog Says:

    My favorite is the “Should I Stop and have a Beer” sign! Ha ha! Clever signage seems to be abundant here.

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