Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Cook Farmers Market Customer Appreciation Day set for Saturday

Jodi Summit
Posted 8/29/19

COOK— The temporary closure of the Zup’s Grocery Store in Cook has been a mixed bag for vendors at the local farmers market here.

Vendors weren’t certain if the lack of a local grocery store …

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Cook Farmers Market Customer Appreciation Day set for Saturday

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COOK— The temporary closure of the Zup’s Grocery Store in Cook has been a mixed bag for vendors at the local farmers market here.
Vendors weren’t certain if the lack of a local grocery store would boost business at the market or simply send more people out of town for their food shopping. So far, however, vendors say they’ve seen an uptick in sales.
“It’s been a good year,” said Kelly Dahl, an organizer of the market. “Our vendors have been pleased with how busy the market has been.”
Missy Roach, from Bear River Farms, agrees it’s been a great year at the market.
“Sales have been very good this year,” she said, “and I feel like attendance at the market is also up.”
Roach said the market has an excellent set of vendors who come week to week with their produce and other food items. There are usually between 12 and 15 vendors selling produce each week, with others selling breads and baked goods, pies, and other treats, along with several crafters.
New this year is a Hibbing farmer who is selling locally-raised beef, which is then processed in a USDA-approved facility and packaged for sale.
The market season got off to a late start after the cool, wet spring meant area gardens were running behind. Add in a late spring frost, and then a very dry midsummer, and market gardeners are working extra hard for their harvest this year. Yet, with the harvest season nearing its peak, the market is flush. “Right now, we do have a lot of produce at the market,” Dahl said. That includes plenty of green vegetables, carrots, beets, onions, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, cucumbers, and more. Plus, ripe tomatoes are now available as well.
Roach said she and her husband have been focusing on growing garlic for sale. They planted 1,200 cloves last fall, for harvest this year, and plan on growing even more for next year. This means they are saving more of the cloves for replanting, and they won’t have quite as many bunches of garlic to sell at the market.
Their garlic is truly local. The original plants came from a homestead in Britt.
“We really don’t know what variety it is,” she said. “It came from an old-time patch. It’s a hard neck variety, and probably a Siberian.”
Roach noted that most of the garlic sold in grocery stores comes from China and that locally-grown, organic garlic not only tastes better but is free of the chemical processing they use to make garlic look “pretty” for sale, or the chemicals used to ward off pests.
Dahl said his garden favorites are usually that fully-ripe, fresh-picked tomatoes. He also tries to grow something new every year. This year he experimented with artichokes in his high-tunnel greenhouse. He grew enough to have some for sale earlier this month. Dahl is also experimenting with growing peanuts in his high-tunnel. Last year, he joked, he grew eight of the best-tasting peanuts ever. This year he is hoping for a better harvest!

New initiatives
In an effort to further grow local markets, the Cook vendors are also part of a pilot project this year, which is making it possible for smaller growers to sell wholesale to restaurants, grocery stores, and institutions.
Cook-area growers have been selling their locally-raised vegetables to The Landing restaurant and are hoping to have another market for their goods when Zup’s reopens its store, possibly later this year.
“This is an incentive for local farmers to plant more than what they can sell at the farmers market,” he said. It is also a market for their goods once the market season ends. “They are a lot more fresh than the vegetables you get when you are living at the end of the supply line,” Dahl said. “Plus, fresh-picked food lasts longer than the food that is shipped up here in trucks.”
If you haven’t checked out the Cook Farmers Market yet this year, this Saturday, Aug. 31, would be a good time to do so. The vendors will hold a customer appreciation event with free goodies from market vendors, along with a free raffle.
The market also offers several special programs to help local residents stretch their food dollars. One gives each child who visits the market two one-dollar tokens to use to buy vegetables or fruit. Children can spend the tokens immediately or save them up for a larger purchase. The market also accepts SNAP benefits, and a program offered through the AEOA that matches $10 in SNAP benefits with $10 market cash, meaning SNAP shoppers can get $20 worth of produce for $10.
The market will continue into September, with the last market day on either Sept. 21 or 28, depending on the vendors’ supplies.

Shopping with local growers matters
Dahl said he hopes that area shoppers realize that the “pop-up” market trucks seen parking along area roads selling watermelon and corn and tomatoes aren’t usually selling locally-grown produce. And most of these products are being grown in larger, conventional farming operations.
“The bottom line is that they are usually not locally grown,” he said. “Local farmers are providing residents with nutritious, organic, non-GMO produce. It’s nice to know the people who are growing your food,” he said. “People should know if they want to make an impact on their local community, that these pop-up vegetable stands are not the way to go,” he said.

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