Farmers market off and running
After a slow start with the growing season because of the cooler weather, the weekly Farmers Market and Beyond is now in full swing offering a wide assortment of fresh produce, fruits and other complimentary items every Monday and Thursday evening from 4 to 7 p.m. in the South Elmwood parking lot at 500 13th Ave. W.
The July through through early October event was established in 2007 by the West Fargo Park District to provide a venue for local growers and food, art and craft artisans to "market" their items to the public.
Through the years that product line has grown to include a plethora of unique, local goods -- fresh produce, flowers, bulbs, jams, jellies, dairy products, meats, herbs and berries, just to name a few.
Kim Wangler, recreational specialist for the West Fargo Park District who coordinates the annual event, said this year's market is about two weeks behind because of the late spring.
In spite of that, she said "the customer turnout has been very good and they keep coming back each time to see what is new."
Shoppers can already find a wide variety -- green beans, peas, zucchini, small potatoes, onions, rhubarb, kohlrabi, tomatoes, peppers, herbs, flowers baked goods, jams and jellies, handcrafted items and jewelry -- with more to come as the weeks unfold.
Approximately a half dozen vendors are currently providing product many more expected as the produce season catches up to where it should be.
Back for his fifth year is West Fargoan Bob Wenzloff who has a three-acre hobby garden he nurtures yearly apart from his regular day job in the West Fargo School District maintenance department where he has spent 30--plus years.
The size of his garden allows his product line to be diverse and all encompassing including: onions, carrots, cucumbers, sweet corn, kohlrabi, kale, swiss chard, okra, peas, watermelon, cantelope buttercup and acorn squash, peppers, and yes, even homegrown celery.
Addressing the latter, Wenzloff said that if you've never tried it, you will either like it or not, and if you do like it, you will never buy another stalk of celery in a store. He said it has a much stronger taste, likening it to the intense flavor of celery salt. "It is absolutely wonderful. You can't beat the taste of fresh celery."
The bad news is that Wenzloff is one of those vendors that is a couple of weeks behind in the growth area. Consequently, he has had limited inventory to this point and Thursday night will only be featuring green and yellow beans, sweet, yellow banana peppers and a little bit of rhubarb.
He emphasizes that the rest will be forthcoming soon, including the much talked about and touted vitamin-enriched Kale, of which he is growing both the blue and purple variety. Describing it as a leaf lettuce with cabbage-like ruffled leaves, Wenzloff said it is excellent used anywhere as a substitute for lettuce, pointing out its deliciousness in a bacon, lettuce. tomato sandwich. He said people are also using it to whip "up smoothies and other interesting things."
Wenzloff said he is inspired in his gardening and farmers market efforts by his "enjoyment of growing and watching things go from an itty bitty seed to taking off. It's unreal to see cucumbers go from a bud to three inches tall in a matter of days. I just flat out enjoy doing something I can have fun with and see other people enjoy the fruits of my labor."
Here, Wenzloff also proudly mentions his six-year-old grandson, Travis Wenzloff Jr., who is a Monday night regular at the market, promoting his Little T's Lemonade, which has been extremely popular especially on the hot nights. "He really enjoys himself," Wenzloff added.
It's pretty much a guarantee that no matter what is featured at this Thursday's Farmers Market & Beyond, the demand will be high.
Wangler said visitors to the event are quickly buying up and enjoying whatever is available. She said one shopper told her that after trying kohlrabi for the first time he liked it so much that he purchased all that remained.
Wangler also emphasized that new vendors are always welcome. the only criteria being the items be fresh produce, home-baked, or handcrafted as a result of a home-based business,
The Farmers Market & Beyond is a member of the North Dakota Farmers Market Association. For more information or to sign up, contact Wangler at 701-433-5360 or visit the Park District website at www.wfparks.org.