Farmers markets meeting customers' needs
By Carol Stender
Date Modified: 08/02/2012 2:06 PM
STAPLES and WADENA, Minn. — It's a tale of two farmers markets bringing access to local residents.
Staples Farmers Market Association growers sell direct to Lakewood Health System's hospital and nursing home. The fresh vegetables are featured in the hospital's salad bar and in patient meals, said SFMA president Mel Weins.
Just down the road on Highway 10, the Wadena Farmers Market Association is adding an EBT machine for customers in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The county is one of the poorest in the state, said Delores LeVau, who works with the association. The EBT offers more people an opportunity to eat locally grown produce.
Lakewood CEO Tim Rice is a strong "buy local" supporter and offering fresh fruits and vegetables to patients, visitors and staff has added health benefits.
Cooks at the hospital note the difference between the locally grown produce and what they receive from a food service truck, said Jena Doemel, Lakewood's director of nutritional services. Local produce stays fresh longer and there is less waste.
The connection between the health system and SMFA was made four years ago when Lakewood asked the market to locate one of its five county-wide markets on the hospital's grounds.
LeVau will handle the EBT and reimburse growers through the USDA program.
"We are trying to make fresh produce available to those that have and others that have not," said grower Diane Webb who, with husband, Chuck, raise vegetables on their Gardens Gourmet farm near Henning. "Everyone in this town should have access to fresh produce."
The WFMA also has a Wadena Area Growers Association growers can pool produce to meet larger orders.
The growers delivered 22 pounds of cucumbers and 14 to 18 heads of romaine lettuce last week to the hospital, Weins said. They also offer zucchini, onions, potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower.
"It means a lot for Lakewood Health System and the community to have the farmers market here," Doemel said. "We try to support our community as much as possible. With the farmers market here on site, it encourages the staff and visitors to go to the farmers market and to purchase locally grown produce. The growers are our customers, too, and it's a way we can give back to the community and be a site for such healthy food."
Doemel said supporting the local community and receiving fresh produce is worth the investment.
The Staples association has a $35 yearly membership fee. Growers who aren't members pay $5 to sell produce for the day.
Members of WFMA pay a $30 yearly fee while non-members pay $10 a day. The Wadena market starts in mid-May and ends in October. Market day at the old Pamida building in Wadena is Friday from 2 p.m. to late afternoon, Webb said. A second market will begin at the same location in mid-July on Thursdays starting at 7 a.m.
Kathy Connell is the WFMA president.
SMFA has several markets throughout the week including a Tuesday market in Hewitt from 3:15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; Wednesday at Verndale from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Thursday at Lakewood Health System near Staples from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; Maddens Resort from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.; and at Leader from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Each site has a manager. Grower Chuck Tangen manages the markets at Lakewood, Maddens Resort and at Leader.
Most markets have between six to 10 vendors.
It's early in the season, but Weins, Tangen, Deb Erickson and Chris Coleman were selling at the market. Erickson had baked goods, bedding plants and flowers and Coleman was selling farm fresh eggs.
Wadena's market included Webb, Connell and Erickson. Webb also has an on-farm store. Connell operates a CSA.
Her son, Seth, who recently returned from two military tours in Iraq, and his wife, Rachel, operate Connell Ranch and sell broilers and produce.
Besides the farmers market, they also supply vegetables to Harvest Thyme Bistro in Wadena.