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Business brisk for winter market

By Tom Weber

The Post-Bulletin

There was more than a hint of autumn in the air Saturday morning, but not enough to deter regular shoppers on the first day of Rochester’s first Winter Market.

"I’m pleasantly surprised," Joan Gardner of Rochester said of the Winter Market. Garner said she shops at the market every Saturday during the warmer months.

Now, however, the market shopping season for the first has been extended time into November — and possibly beyond, said Jennifer Nelson, market manager.

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"We’re here through November for sure," Nelson said while standing near one of the portable heaters brought in to ward off the morning’s damp chill. "In December, we’d like to find a building to be inside. That would be ideal."

Producers Saturday were selling everything from potatoes and apples to honey and cheese.

"We’ve got locally grown food available to be sold, and the farmers need a direct selling opportunity," Nelson said. "This is their idea. They wanted to do this."

Among the producers was Richard Merrill of Chatfield, who was selling honey and beeswax products, as well as fresh vegetables.

"It helps us sell some produce that by spring would not be any good," Merrill said of the extended market season.

"For me, this works well because I’ve got cheese and wheat products," said Pam Benike of Prairie Hollow Farm near Elgin. "Just about everybody I’ve talked to is glad we’ve been able to extend it. People still want to get this great food. Otherwise, it’s a short, six-month season."

As the sun struggled to break through the early overcast Saturday, the number of people strolling through the market increased, although not approaching the throngs of summertime.

"I’m really happy with the turnout this early," Nelson said. Of course, a cold snap or early snowstorm could hinder future weekends. For now, though, Nelson said she’s optimistic the market will find an indoor space before the real winter arrives.

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"The city has been very supportive, and the county, too," she said. "We’ll see how it goes."

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