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Getting ready for the market

Marshall’s farmer’s market is in full swing after opening this past weekend

July 11, 2011
By Elaine Zarzana , Marshall Independent

Marshall's farmer's market opened for the season Saturday morning.

John Blake, spokesperson for the market vendors, said the market features a wide variety of locally grown products each week: meats, flowers, veggies, fruits, baked goods, canned goods, herbs, eggs and more.

"You never know what you're going to find there," Blake said. "If you come down once, you can come back the next Saturday and see something new."

Article Photos

Photo by Elaine Zarzana
John Blake, a vendor at Marshall’s farmer’s market, gave a tour of his garden last week. Cool weather crops, like the kohlrabi he is holding, have flourished this year.

"We draw vendors from a large area... Hendricks, Lake Benton, Walnut Grove..." said Blake. Earlier in the week, he estimated between six and 12 vendors will set up Saturday, and he isn't too concerned about the effect of the wet spring and recent storm on local gardens. "Judging from my garden, it's definitely later, but I'm guessing that gardens aren't that far behind. The cool weather crops did very well this spring; cabbages, lettuces, broccoli. And the heat-loving plants are finally taking off."

In this region, garden production peaks from mid-August to mid-September, Blake said.

"Each Saturday it gets bigger and bigger. At the height of the season we will top 35 to 40 vendors on a Saturday morning," he said. "In the middle of August virtually everything, with a few exceptions, is producing in the garden. Early spring items like lettuce and peas may be gone, but the huge majority are producing... from green beans to sweet corn to tomatoes."

Blake said vendors have different strategies for selling their crops.

"There are vendors that bring a variety throughout. They come weekly. There's others that only come a few times, maybe until their sweet corn is sold out, or melons," said Blake.

As for himself, Blake said, "I'm more of a broad spectrum seller. Anything from apples in the fall to zucchini in the summer - so A to Z."

Blake encourages customers to ask any questions they have, such as when a given crop is in season or how it was grown.

"Just strike up a conversation with any of the vendors and they'll be glad to help you," he said. Blake said some customers want to know if the vegetables they are purchasing have been treated with insecticides. "There are some (vendors) that are totally organic, others that (treat) very minimally... Definitely leaning towards organic these days."

The official times for the market are 7:30 a.m. until noon, but Blake said, "It's always while supplies last... At the height of the season you might see people there until 12:30 and later... This time of year we might sell out before noon."

And then there are the early birds.

"There are customers that come down there as early as 6 or 6:30," said Blake. Most vendors have arrived by that time and are setting up. "No one's ever chased away. They're there to buy and we're there to sell."

Blake said in larger towns, vendors sometimes have to pay fees to join the market, but that's not the case here.

"This is my 23rd year. There's one vendor who'd been there over 30 years that they've had some kind of market in downtown Marshall," he said. "I'm not aware that it's ever cost anybody anything... We just ask that people charge a fair price, that they don't come there to flood the market and make a quick buck." Market fees normally go to fund advertising, Blake said, so Marshall's market needs to rely on word-of-mouth.

For Blake, enjoying the market isn't just about the produce.

"Seeing the people, that's probably the biggest thing," he said. "Someone could come to my acreage and say they wanted to buy everything I could produce. I'd have to charge them an awful lot, because you wouldn't experience the fun... meeting and greeting customers... seeing people you haven't seen since last fall... wondering how they've been."

Blake also encourages people to check out markets in neighboring towns. Cottonwood, Hendricks, Ivanhoe, Slayton, Canby and Montevideo are some of the towns that host markets on other days of the week, he said. Across the country, there's a growing interest in eating local, said Blake.

The Marshall market is located in the Schwan Food Co. north parking lot, across from the Schwan's corporate headquarters, one block west of the intersection of Main Street and College Drive. For any questions about buying or selling, contact Blake at 432-6402.



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