One sure sign of spring is the opening of farmers' markets around northern Minnesota. The Grand Rapids Farmers' Market opened on May 10th for its 31st season. It is one of the earliest markets to open in the area, and 12 member/vendors were present. The morning was sunny and cool, but temperatures were supposed to hit 60 degrees--great weather for a market that sometimes sees snow in May!
We caught up with Market Manager Bill Boutang. On market days Bill gets up at 4:15 am and is on the road by 5:20. Market members start loading in between 6:30 and 6:45. Bill helps with set-up and says he tries to get a "nice, compact market." He gave us some simple tips about what customers might want to know about how the market operates, and then passed his phone around so we could meet some of the vendors.
We first talked to Kent Lorenzen, a longtime market member who was offering "heretical" lefse and ramps for sale. Kent's lefse is home-made from the potatoes he grows on his farm, but unlike most traditional Norwegians, he adds herbs and spices to the normally bland flatbread. He also knows the location of some patches of wild leeks, or ramps, and brings them to the market fresh from the woods. He doesn't put ramps in the lefse though. "Too strong," he says.
We met Brynden Lenius, who was already offering a beautiful selection of greens for sale, grown in the 4 high tunnels at her farm. She also had bedding plants for sale.
Rick Herman from Log Home Wood Fired Pizza was getting ready to make hand crafted breakfast, lunch, and dessert pizzas in his mobile wood-fired oven. The oven burns a mix of oak and maple, with a little popple to keep it hot, and reaches a temperature of 900 degrees. At that temperature it doesn't take long to bake a pizza. Once the oven's fired up it'll stay hot for 3 days. Rick and his pizzas are at the market each Wednesday.
Allison is a new member attending her first market with a table full of baked goods from family recipes. She said she has been baking all her life and couldn't eat everything she bakes. The market presented an opportunity so she was giving it a shot. Among the items she offered for sale, her personal favorite is banana bread made from her great-grandmother's recipe.
Tike from Tike's Trophy Sausage was there with his big, freezer meat truck. He's been at the market for 10 years, and currently offers 30 varieties of hand-made locally-smoked sausages, Amish chicken and certified Angus beef. His biggest seller is wild rice/blueberry brats. Tike has three daughters who help develop recipes for his family business. Looking for something for the grill? Tike has bacon brats, cheddar brats, wild rice/cranberry brats, mushroom and swiss brats, maple brats (made with local syrup), and more!
The Grand Rapids Farmers' Market is open from 8 am-1 pm Wednesdays and Saturdays now through October, and is located just west of Glen's surplus store on Highway 2 in Grand Rapids.