Holly Ebel: Back in the great outdoors
There's no surer sign of spring than when the Rochester Farmers Market moves back outside, where it'll be until the end of October.
Not that we didn't enjoy going to the barn at the fairgrounds, but being outside, mingling with vendors, farmers and friends is all part of the Saturday-morning experience. So is sitting by the Zumbro at the picnic tables there and enjoying a fresh cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll.
Most of the market regulars are back, and there are some exciting new ones. Among them the Cada family, from St. Charles, who are bringing fresh flowers and produce. Another market newcomer you might already know is Joel's Greenhouse from Pine Island. Look for their plants and flowers as well as some great produce.
Gardeners will be especially interested in June's Organic Soil Builder. A project of Chelsea Habberstad, she is selling earthworm casings (the worms' waste) for garden fertilizer. She can also provide you with earthworms.
You might be surprised to see artwork on display. Susan Waughtal of Squash Blossom Farm, an artist, will be selling some of her pieces there. Wondering how that fits in with the market? Waughtal makes her paint from her cow's milk. You will definitely want to stop and hear about that. She also will have baked goods and eggs for sale.
About the baked goods — always popular on Saturday mornings — this year every vendor who brings baked or canned items must have a certificate from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. As market manager David Kotsonas explains it, this requirement goes back to a state law the Legislature passed last July. The new law requires those bringing what they call "cottage foods" to any market to have a license. The license doesn't have to be displayed, but the vendor must have the certificate on hand to show if asked.
Bound to be popular with customers are the variety of baked goods being brought by Sharon Su. She'll have croissants, brioche, challah and babka as well as other baked goods one usually doesn't see here.
Another market newcomer is Amy Lorber, who will be selling honey, herbs and infused syrups. She will also have candy she makes from honey in addition to some baked goods.
Herb lovers should stop by Bhavana Shivu's spot. Among her herbs are turmeric and other popular varieties. Her herbs aren't only for eatin — Shivu uses them in skin-care products and is working on making a hair dye from black walnuts.
Try the cheese curds from Metz Hart-Land Creamery. They also will be bringing blocks of cheese.
Though not newcomers, Serio Farms is selling hydroponic lettuce and tomatoes for the first time, a technique that is becoming very popular among some growers.
How fun is this? Kurt and Hiromi Walleser are selling micro greens that they cut and bag for you right there. The couple also have honey and honeycomb, recent winners at the Minnesota State Fair.
Also new to market this season are recipe cards put together by the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). The cards focus on some of the more unusual produce available and the best way to use it. You can get these at the vendors' booths or at the information booth.
Old market favorite activities will also return, such as the culinary and chef demonstrations. In what has become a Labor Day tradition, Chef Omar Feyen will be cooking up specialties that Saturday. Also helping out around the market this year are dietician interns from Mayo Clinic, who will be giving tips on healthy eating.
We can't start the season without a shout-out to Kotsonas, the affable market manager. Now starting his sixth year, he works tirelessly to bring the best to our market, making the rounds not just around the market but visiting farms and cultivating the relationships with farmers.
He is a board member of the Minnesota Farmer's Market Association and is involved in the Minnesota Sustainability group. Kotsonas has also been involved in many community interest groups. When you see him, thank him for all he does to make our market among the best in the state.
In a "previous life," Kotsanas was a traveling musician with a special fondness for Prince, and in fact last week traveled up to First Avenue and Paisley Park to be part of the crowd.
"It was an amazing, moving experience," he said.