Rochester farmers market: A growing attraction

The Rochester Downtown Farmers Market will be held in their outdoor location on Fourth Street Southeast again Saturday Oct. 26. Beginning Nov. 2, the market moves to its indoor location at Building 41 on the Olmsted County Fairgrounds.

Few activities are as rooted in human tradition as the old-fashioned farmers market, yet Rochester's weekly market is a showcase of frequent innovation and change.

The downtown market opens Saturday, welcoming 12 new growers to its lineup of nearly 100 family-owned farms that'll be showcased over the course of the summer.

"It's not just how many growers we have, but the diversity they bring," said David Kotsanas, market manager. "You can find 20 different kinds of hot peppers; that's what sets us apart."

"It's hard to add to the diversity of these products each year," Kotsanas said. "However, this year we will have American chestnuts and hazelnuts, sheepskins, cedar and maple tree saplings, in addition to the local items offered last summer."

Rochester's market is considered the third-largest in the state, and last year, in a Star Tribune readers poll, it was voted Minnesota's best farmers market.


Quality is maintained and assured with periodic farm walk-through inspections. Those involve all of the new vendors, plus about one-third of the carryover farms each year, "just to verify that they're growing what they're selling," Kotsanas said. "If their cabbage is bug-eaten but they're selling perfect cabbage at the farmers market, you can tell."

New vendors this year include these family-owned farms and businesses:

• Garrett Kolb Woodworking, which will sell cedar and maple saplings, and wood carvings made from mature trees from Kolb's property. "We've had people sell trees in the past, but not in a couple of years," Kotsanas said.

• Lorence's Berry Farm, of Northfield, a "good-sized family farm," Kotsanas said, already well-represented at Twin Cities-area markets, that sells organic produce, berries, jams and syrups.

• Father-son farmers August and Andy Serio, who grow produce and fruit, including tomatoes in their year-round greenhouses. Besides summer, "they'll be bringing tomatoes in winter," Kotsanas said.

• O'Neill Family Farm, which sells lamb, beef, tanned sheepskin and wool. The farmers market needed another sheep vendor, as the Fendry family's Summerhill Family Farm, a longtime presence at the market, has departed. "The kids grew up and they've moved on," Kotsanas said. "They're really going to be missed."

From a cultural standpoint, maybe the biggest change this year will be the addition of ready-to-eat food at the market. Farmers market members approved the change at their most recent annual meeting, voting to allow up to five prepared-food vendors to join the market lineup.

Two so far have joined up — Stephan Jennebach, who will sell wood-fired breakfast pizzas; and Abe Sauer, who will have cold-press coffee for sale.


"This is our first year and it's kind of a soft start, I guess," Kotsanas said.

The food vendors are required to supply themselves from the market's farm vendors, and as for Sauer, "he'll be using maple syrup and honey from our growers," Kotsanas said.

Other changes from recent years are being carried forward. Among them, the market will continue to accept Electronic Bank Transfer (EBT) cards for payment from recipients of federal government food aid; mid-week markets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays are being scheduled; and live entertainment and special events will be part of the market each week (see sidebar).

The weather so far this spring has been encouraging, and some of the initial produce will be greens, including lettuce and spinach. "Radishes won't be too far behind," Kotsanas said. "This is looking to be a really good growing season, the way things have started."

"If we have produce we'll have happy customers who return," he said. "It can be a vicious cycle the other way."

Besides food sales, the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market includes weekly entertainment and special events. Here is a schedule for the initial weeks of the market:

• May 2: Music by Emily Whitcomb


• May 9: Music by Stephanie Wescot, a visit from the Rochester Public Library's BookBike

• May 23: Music by Denise Guelker Braus and Emily Whitcomb

• May 30: Music by Lisa Dixon

• June 6: Mayo Clinic Dietician Interns food demo, Health Source Chiropractic's massage chair, a visit from the Rochester Public Library's BookBike

• June 13: Radish Magazine's Healthy Living Fair, music by Denise Guelker Braus and Emily Whitcomb

• June 20: Music by Lisa Dixon, a visit from the Rochester Public Library's BookBike

• Early September: Kids Day



Additional mid-week farmers markets will be held on these days and locations:

• 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays from June 16 to Sept. 29 at Ashley Furniture, 3900 U.S. 52 N. A dozen or more vendors are expected to participate.

• 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays from June 17 to Sept. 30 at a location to be determined.


New vendors:

• Devon Ballinger, Wayfarer's Garden, diverse variety of produce

• Craig Carr, Dumfries wildflower Honey, honey, nuts, fruit

• Emily Hanson-Funke, Crooked Pine Farm, goat milk soap, lotions, heirloom squash


• Garrett Kolb Woodworking, cedar & maple sapling, unique wooden crafts

• Shawn Lorence, Lorence's Berry Farm, berries, jams, syrups, aspargus

• Cindy Wolf, O'Neill Family Farm, lamb, beef, tanned sheepskin and wool products

• Bill Orton, Hare & Tortoise Farm, produce, cut flowers

• Ryan Patrick, Frontier Farm, produce

• Katie Piper, In Bloom Garden Center, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, patio pots, produce

• August Serio, Serio Farm, produce, fruit, heated greenhouses will bring tomatoes all winter

• Alex White, Shal Family Farm, produce, herbs, fruit, unique "easy packs" for creating a whole dish


• Song Yang, Yang Family Farm, produce, herbs, fruit

Concession vendors:

Stephan Jennebach, Firebrick Bread Wood-Fired Pizza, wood-fired pizza using market ingredients, breakfast pizza, blueberry feta pizza

Abe Sauer, Crash Cart Coffee, cold-press coffee

Farmers Market veggies.jpg
2014 Farmers Market

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