Feeding the appetite for homegrownCustomers who strolled through the Downtown Superior Farmers’ Market Wednesday found a variety of items ranging from maple syrup and fresh kale to goat milk soap and chocolate-covered bacon.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Customers who strolled through the Downtown Superior Farmers’ Market Wednesday found a variety of items ranging from maple syrup and fresh kale to goat milk soap and chocolate-covered bacon.
“Mmmmm,” said Bobbie Keener who lives on Minnesota’s French River when her daughter pointed out heads of fresh bok choy. Nearby, Saul and Jessica Saucedo of Bemidji, Minn. perused items from Brule River Farm.
“There’s all kinds of good stuff,” Jessica Saucedo said. “I’m really impressed to see apple cider from the fall.” Her biggest find was tobacco plants for the learning garden they tend.
“I’ve been trying to grow it for three years,” she said.
Luanne Kemp of South Superior picked up a few tomato and pepper plants for her own garden.
“I like to come down here,” she said. “I like vegetables and fresh produce.” It supplements her green thumb, Kemp said, and lets her “buy local.”
Local wares are what area farmers’ markets — found in Superior, Solon Springs and Wentworth — deliver. They also give shoppers a chance to connect with neighbors and friends.
“People are really getting into the idea of shopping at a farmers’ market,” said Arleen Schindler, who runs the Solon Farmers’ Market and Craft Show from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Friday at the Solon Springs Community Center. “They come to share tips, news, ideas, and we in turn give recipes, samples and a welcoming atmosphere you can’t get anywhere else.
“Okay, the local gossip is also fun to hear and there are times that you can laugh ’til tears come with some of the stories we are told,” she said.
The asparagus has sold out in Solon Springs, but there are still fresh mint, salad greens, dinner onions, Cumberland honey, “microwave potatoes” from Rice Lake and bedding plants available.
“Next week we will have strawberries,” Schindler said, and Michigan blueberries will be available the last week in June. The Solon Springs market, which features a selection of crafters, operates year round. Many of the crafters will custom-make items and new products like willow baskets, chairs and plant stands have been big sellers.
As produce ripens, more goods will be available throughout the area. Dave Dumke, who runs Brule River Farm with his wife Sue Ann, said the coming weeks will bring snap peas, string beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onion leeks and more to Superior — the downtown market from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Wednesday and the Barker’s Island Farmers’ Market 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday in the SS Meteor parking lot.
A total of 18 vendors have signed up for the Superior markets, offering a wider variety of items than in the past. Superior Chocolates carries seasonal treats like chocolate-covered strawberries as well as pecan toffee and chocolate-covered chips, pretzels and bacon.
“If it doesn’t move, she’ll cover it with chocolate,” said Dave Johnson of his wife, chocolatier Sherry Johnson. The Foxboro couple plan to sell their gourmet chocolate at both Superior markets.
Ken and Peggy Moen of Foxboro have 66 squash plants growing at their farm already, and will offer 13 different varieties of tomato as the season progresses. With the unusually warm weather, they said, the growing season is a couple weeks ahead of last year’s.
Goat milk soap is Carolyn Jones’ specialty. She runs Gitchee Goat farm near Pattison Park. Along with her homemade soap, which comes in scents like honey, lavender and orange bliss, she offers fresh eggs, lip balm and the occasional bag of dirt. She encouraged everyone to stop by to support local small businesses.
The Wentworth Farmers’ Market will start up in mid-July and offer the wares of up to six local vendors. It runs from 2:30-6 p.m. Tuesdays at Wentworth Gardens.
Other local options
Not every farmer opts to take their bounty to market.
“There are a lot of people growing local food in Douglas County,” said Jane Anklam, horticulture and agriculture educator with UW-Extension. “But they’re sharing it with friends and family.” Some just provide produce to a few select people each year, or offer shares of their crops through Community Supported Agriculture. Others, like the 3-in-1 Farm Store in Solon Springs, sell their local produce straight from the farm.
Local products can even be found on the shelves of area grocery stores. Hydroponic Bay Produce tomatoes are grown at the Challenge Center in Superior. Half of Douglas County’s organic dairy farmers ship their milk to the national Organic Valley chain. And snack sticks made on Superior’s Litchke Farms — North Farm Meat & Sausage — are available in the meat aisle of Super One Foods and a number of area convenience stores.
People throughout Douglas County are re-connecting with the food chain.
At Wentworth Gardens, all but one of the 11 community garden plots have been rented for the summer. Some already have green plants growing. More people in the area are choosing to grow their own hops, raise chickens or make homemade wine as well, Anklam said.
“People honestly do want to run out on their lunch break and buy vegetables,” Anklam said. “They want to know who’s growing their food.” They can be assured what they get is fresh-picked, so they’re getting the best quality of food. As an added bonus, the markets and farms get people outside in the sunshine to buy produce and meet their neighbor.
Locally-grown food is starting to be more and more important to people in Douglas County, Anklam said. That suits Schindler and her husband, Jerry, just fine. The Solon Springs couple is busy growing peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, edamame, sweet corn, raspberries, blackberries and more.
“As the weeks in June go by more ‘fresh’ produce will be available and it sure looks like a summer filled with healthy, tasty and beautiful fruits and vegetables,” Schindler said.