August 27, 2007

The freshest produce in Delano

By Kelsey Linden
Staff Writer

Every Wednesday afternoon from 2:30 until 6 p.m., the Delano Farmers Market vendors come to set up their stands by Flippin’ Bill’s. But, how much work do these farmers and gardeners really do in order to provide the freshest produce?

It all comes down to the love and reward of seeing warm smiles on the customer’s faces.

The farmers market has been available to Delano residents for six years. It is located right off of Highway 12 near Flippin’ Bill’s. Every Wednesday, market manager Deb Hoen prepares for another wonderful day selling her homemade jams and jellies.

“That’s one of the true treats about life, homemade jam and a fresh slice of bread,” Hoen said. “I grew up doing it. It was passed on from my grandma, and I enjoy doing it, and sharing it with my children. We make jam four nights a week. Our family also does maple syrup. That’s a treat, and we also have fresh eggs.”

Hoen recommends that customers try her pepper jams. The raspberry jalapeno is the top seller the past year, but strawberry margarita has also been a continuous favorite. Hoen and many others allow you to sample their produce at the market.

When asked about variety, Hoen said, “We’ve got a nice line of products for such a little market. You can see that when you walk and see everybody’s table. There’s a nice variety. I don’t think people know exactly what we do have to offer.”

The farmers market provides produce such as freshly picked vegetables, melons, homemade salsa, organic beef, homemade jam, fresh maple syrup, honey, and fresh bread.

“Somebody came up to me today and asked, ‘where are those pies that just melt in your mouth? I’ve got to get some.’ It’s just stuff like that makes all the difference” said Hoen.

The homemade pies are another very popular item that goes very fast at the farmers market.

Harvey and Berna Grangroth are the makers of these wonderful pies, but along with pies, they also have a variety of fresh apples, vegetables, and handcrafted rugs. They have been a part of the farmers market since it began. Farming has been their life; it’s what they enjoy most.

Sharing the same love for farming, Rockford farmers Kelly Jo and Linda Colbjornsen have also been setting up their fresh vegetables in Delano since the farmers market began.

They have everything from melons and squash to tomatoes, peppers and potatoes. Corn, cucumbers, and melons have been the favorite so far this year, as well as the small cucumbers for pickles.

It’s hard to pick a favorite.

“I like it all,” Kelly Jo said. “It’s really nice to hear compliments on your produce. It’s very rewarding. I love it.”

Next door, Gerald and Vicki Harris, from Silver Lake, come out to provide Delano with fresh organic beef. They have everything from t-bone steaks to ground beef. They are not fans of the chemicals in beef, and they like the taste of fresh grass-grown beef.

“It’s got a totally different taste. The people who like grass-fed beef really like our beef,” said Vicki.

The Harrises have really grown to love the people in Delano and the farmers market, in general.

Another great feature that is available is Larry Stehr’s knife sharpening. Originally, Stehr was a machinist and tool maker and he sharpened knives as a hobby for 25 years.

Stehr lives in St. Bonifacius, where he works at home. When asked why he wanted to come to the farmers market, he said, “I wanted to be able to give the people another reason to come here, other than to buy food.”

Stehr says it takes about five minutes to sharpen knives. You can bring your knives right to Stehr and he will sharpen them promptly. He uses a dull belt sander to prevent taking off any metal on the knives.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve met a lot of good people. I enjoy it very much, as long as it doesn’t rain,” Stehr kidded.

A resident of Minnetrista, this is also Jan Michalek’s first year at the Delano Farmers Market. She specializes in selling her fresh, organic salsa.

“My husband got on a tractor and just made the garden huge. So, I planted some tomatoes, peppers, and he promoted the cilantro, so I had everything I needed for salsa.

“I’ve had such good reviews on it from friends and family that I thought this would be fun. I like being able to see people every week. It’s just such a nice community,” said Michalek.

The “hot, fiery salsa” is without a doubt the best seller.

“It surprises me that Minnesotan’s love the hot salsa more,” she said.

Being involved with the farmers market for two years, Jason Klemp really likes the variety of the produce.

“It changes from time to time, but right now, the favorite is tomatoes,” Klemp said. “In a few weeks from now, it will be squash. It all depends on how it tastes and how it looks.”

Klemp has been gardening for 10 years. He likes to be able to sell his vegetables and keep gardening. He plans to continue gardening as long as he can.

Without a doubt, the smell of Great Harvest’s warm bread certainly draws people in for a taste.

From Minnetonka, Anna Smith and TJ Sikorski have spent their summers traveling from town to town selling Great Harvest bread.

When asked why people love their bread, Smith said, “We don’t use any preservatives, no high-frutose corn syrup, and it is freshly made. It’s dense, so it’s not the fluffy Wonder bread. There’s a lot of great flavors to try, as well.”

The honey whole wheat is the common favorite. She recommends that you try a slice of the roast garlic or the cinnamon swirl.

Smith also said, “The cookies are also extremely popular. We will usually sell out of them and have people complaining because we don’t have any more. Really, the people are great though. I love being out here.”

As far as the community goes, Hoen feels truly indebted to have all their support.

“The city’s been great and supportive. Flippin’ Bill’s has been great, too,” said Hoen. “It’s just so much fun doing this. You get to know your neighbor vendors really well. We’re like our own market family.”

Hoen is looking to get more fruit and fresh flowers, as well as plants. Hoen is also open to new techniques such as gardening and building.

The farmers market stays open until October, with an end-of-the-season highlight being pumpkins.

For more information on having a booth at the farmers market next year, call Hoen at (763) 972-6842.

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