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Farmers Market gets off to chilly start

Margaret Henry shops for the perfect heirloom tomato plant Saturday at the Park Rapids Farmers Market. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

On a 40-degree morning, when the county's compost pile was still a frozen mountain, the brave vendors of the Park Rapids Farmers Market set up their tents and tables and displayed their wares.

It was a good decision. Shortly after the 9 a.m. opening, crowds steadily streamed into Pioneer Park on Main Avenue.

They bought jams, perennials, grass fed beef, salsa, bottled sauerkraut, tomato plants and herbs. The selection seemed endless even when there wasn't much for early spring crops except a smidgeon of rhubarb and asparagus.

Susanna Carroll and Mark Fickes own Hay Creek Stock Farm. Their frozen beef cuts were selling like hotcakes. Their salsa was just plain hot, a zippy sample to taste for breakfast.

'This is our fifth year," Mark said. "It's been rewarding. Some years are better than others."

Susanna was wandering from booth to booth to shop.

"It's kind of what goes on around here," she laughed. "We all buy from each other."

Lois Just of Park Rapids was busily selling perennials and garden ornaments made of paver blocks. She had homemade peanut brittle.

'I love to garden," she said, and sharing her successes with market patrons seemed the perfect fit. She was happy with her first outing.

Margaret Henry, a spry 90-year-old, was shopping for an heirloom tomato plant.

"My son just built me a raised garden so I can grow things," she explained.

Bill and Eva Fritz were presiding over a table of jams, sauerkraut Bill makes and wild rice.

Eva runs the market. She said there are 17 different vendors this year so far. They don't all come at once. Some just sell produce; the vendors who sell perennials will pack things up in a month and leave.

"You can make $2,000 a season," she said. "Some make more."

The "bread lady," Mary Dodge of Park Rapids, is a perennial favorite among market patrons.

She starts baking Thursdays to fill her table with rye and rhubarb sunflower breads, crème de menthe brownies, homemade dog biscuits and other goodies.

"I enjoy baking and this way I can't eat them all," she said.

The Farmers Market runs Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through the end of October, weather permitting, and Wednesdays from 1 to 5 p.m. in Pioneer Park in downtown Park Rapids. There will be live music some Wednesdays, Eva said.