by Dennis Dalman
On a sunny afternoon Aug. 26, the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market attracted more than 600 people who strolled the grounds, purchased food items and socialized pleasantly.
At the market site on the Resurrection Lutheran Church parking lot, there were people of all ages, babies in strollers and pet dogs having a good time on the warm day.
Nineteen vendors at tents or stands sold their garden produce, baked goods or hand-crafted items.
The market was a visual feast of colors and textures: blazing yellow sunflower bouquets, displays of bright red plump tomatoes, deep green herbs, fresh orange carrots, gnarly turnips and rutabagas, the glowing amber of jars of maple syrup, display cases brimming with artisan breads and rolls.
Singer-guitarist Merritt Bussiere of St. Cloud entertained the visitors with nostalgic songs, many of them from the 1920s and 1930s.
The successful market was gratifying to vendors and visitors. That’s because this spring and summer, the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market began with stumbling fits and starts, as did many food markets in central Minnesota and beyond.
“This Friday was gorgeous,” said vendor Shelly Carlson of rural St. Joseph, whose specialty is homemade maple syrup from her “Wildwood Ranch.” Carlson is a member of the Market Committee and has been an active vendor since the market was founded 22 years ago. There are nine members on the committee. Its chairperson is Kate Ritger.
Carlson noted the fickle weather patterns in spring and early summer frustrated many growers. It was cold well into spring so planting had to be delayed. Thus, produce matured two to three weeks later than usual. Some vendors, Carlson said, had nothing to sell all through July.
“Even maple sap was slow this spring,” she said.
All produce sold at the market comes from within a 30-mile radius of St. Joseph.
“We so appreciate the loyal customers who come to the market every Friday,” Carlson said. “We have fun activities for children, such as face painting by Lisa Wahlin of St. Joseph.”
Carlson recalled how the St. Joseph Farmers’ Market started. Two Sisters of the Order of St. Benedict, Angeline Dufner and Phyllis Plantenberg (both now deceased), began exploring the idea for a local market back in the late 1990s. Eventually, the idea motivated many people to organize and to seek interested growers in the area. The first market opened in 2000 right outside the Del-Win Ballroom in east St. Joseph. In 2005, the market venue was moved to the Resurrection Lutheran parking lot, where it’s remained every summer since.
The St. Joseph Farmers’ Market will take place from 3-6 p.m. every Friday through September and on the first two Fridays of October. The last market day will be Oct. 14.