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Growing out of season

Mary Lou Rathbun of Rochester, Minn. gets help from Andrew Thoreson at the Thoreson Farms booth at the Rochester Indoor Winter Farmers Market Saturday morning November 5, 2011 in building 41 on the Olmsted County Fairgrounds. Thoreson Farms is in Wanamingo, Minn. Saturday was the first day of the indoor winter market.

It wouldn't seem as though Minnesota's dry, brown, frost-covered ground could bear anything this time of year, yet the first Rochester Winter Farmers Market of the season Saturday proved plentiful.

Zanni Bolton, of Rochester, remarked on the "colorful abundance" as she purchased a bag of apples.

"This is the season to think about how much abundance we really have here," she said.

Also filling her bag were free range eggs, homemade jam, a beef stick and cookies, all of which she purchased from the people who made or raised the foods.

"It's a good way to connect with the community," she said. "You have more of a face with the food that's on your table."


Now in its fifth season, the winter market has grown into its own with about 25 regular vendors plus partial-season vendors selling a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, jams, honey, eggs, cheeses baked goods, soaps and flowers.

Deep green leaf lettuce and spinach, traditionally some of the first vegetables to be harvested in the spring, were popular items at the Thoreson Farms stand.

Growing some vegetables in the greenhouse has helped extend the growing season over nine months, said Tim Thoreson, who owns the farm near Wanamingo, noting that he usually has enough fresh vegetables to go through December.

The popularity of the winter market actually led Mark Timm, owner of Fairview Farm near Plainview, to change what he plants to include more fall crops and root vegetables that last into the winter, he said.

"I ran out of carrots by Christmas last year," he said. "I planted a quarter acre this year by the speed they're selling, I could run out by Christmas again."

Expanding his fall crops and using his greenhouses benefits both his business and the consumer, he said.

"From the farmer's perspective, you keep that cash flow into winter," he said. "For the consumer, they can get locally grown food that's as fresh as it can be. I keep produce in cold storage until January or February and that is as fresh as it is coming from California."

But while many of the same foods were available from the summer market, the changing of the season was evident at Lynelle Webb-O'Neil's Everyday Bouquet stand.


During the summer market, the stand is filled with fresh flower arrangements. For the winter market, dried flowers, plants and evergreen arrangements were made into wreaths and adorned pumpkins.

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