Farmers markets help small businesses thrive, connect
May 27, 2022
Fresh ginger at a farmers market in northern Minnesota? Yes, indeed. Thanks to John and Kelly Lenkowski of Farm Sol, who grow this tropical crop in hoop houses, customers can enjoy a milder, aromatic version of the grocery store staple.
Earlier in the season, the couple creates fresh salad blends with lettuces and greens that change weekly. During tomato season, their stand offers colorful mixes of red, orange, purple, green and yellow heirloom varieties.
Like most farmers, the Lenkowskis connect with customers in multiple ways. John and Kelly focus on their CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) subscriptions, but markets are important too.
"We love selling at the farmers market because we get to meet our neighbors and other folks that love good food," they said. "The market has helped us feel like we are a part of the community, and we love that we can contribute to healthy food access in the local area. Cloquet market shoppers are wonderful folks and every Saturday has been a great time!"
The flexibility of a small-scale business helps Elizabeth and Stephen Naglak of Bread in the Meadow to hone their baking skills and develop specialty breads and pastries that are favorites at the market. The flavors of their Meadowlands sourdough and 7-grain levain breads are developed through an autolyse process (gentle mixing of the flour and water, followed by a rest period) and careful rises. Flaky croissants are layered, rolled and rested for hours before baking to a golden brown.
Recently, the Naglaks grew, harvested, threshed and milled heirloom Red Fife wheat to use in their baking. It was grown in Canada and the northern U.S. primarily during the late 19th century, and is the first heritage wheat added to the Slow Food organization's Ark of Taste, a "living catalog" of at-risk foods.
Elizabeth and Stephen take orders online for "porch pickups" in addition to selling at local markets.
"I really enjoy getting to know customers, seeing regulars week after week and even year to year, as well as meeting new people," Elizabeth said. "It's been great to get to know the other vendors, too, and create a place to serve the community together with local food."
Another benefit? Their children will grow up learning about a home-based cottage foods baking business and meeting the friendly folks at the farmers market.
The Carlton County farmers market is open 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays starting June 4, through Oct. 21 in front of Premiere Theatres in Cloquet. The Carlton site will be open 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, June 21 through mid-October in McFarland Park, Highway 210 and Grand Avenue.