Holmes City Farmers' Market puts the 'unity' in community
In a fabled time, when food was scarce one man fed a village.
As the story goes, curious townsfolk approached the man and asked what he was brewing in his cauldron. His reply, "Stone soup."
One by one, villagers added what vegetables, spices and meat they could spare. The community bonded as the ingredients stewed. Only the man knew that the soup began with a stone at the bottom of a pot of water flavored by good intentions.
Something similar is brewing in present day Holmes City.
A year ago Trinity Lutheran Church member Dee Lemmon opened a mini-market in the church parking lot to sell vegetables from her vast 1-acre garden. From Lemmon's seed grew an idea to invite local farmers. Soon, the Holmes City Farmer's Market sprouted.
"The development of the Holmes City Farmer's Market is a lot like the old story of the man who made stone soup," said Diane Kratz, Holmes City Farmer's Market committee member.
Every summertime Saturday, about a dozen vendors set up tables and tents along the church parking lot's perimeter. Fresh produce, herbs, homemade canned pickles, jams and salsas, flavored vinegars, whole grain flour, honey, cheese and breads are proudly displayed.
Pam Brown, member of Trinity's sister church, Oscar Lake in Farwell, sells herbs from her garden. She gardened back home in Texas but said the herbs didn't grow there like they do in Minnesota.
"The farmer's market meets a need. You start meeting people. It just works," Brown said.
Brown also helps elderly members who want to contribute but can't make it out to the market by selling their baked goods at her stand.
"It's been good for the church," said Trinity Lutheran Church President Jan Christensen. "We're getting new people in who haven't been here before."
On Saturday, August 17 a vinegar, sunflower oil and cheese taste expo will be presented by Leatherwood Vinegary out of Long Prairie, Smude's Sunflower Oil from Pierz and Fruitful Seasons Dairy located outside Alexandria. The committee has networked with markets in Hoffman and Morris and plans to incorporate educational presentations and more interactive events into the Holmes City Farmer's Market. Cassie Weisner of Cassie and the Bobs will be providing musical entertainment during the August 17 tasting.
"We saw what a great community gathering place [Hoffman's] market has become," Kratz said. "That is what we hope to bring to our community as well."
The Holmes City Farmer's Market also welcomes crafters and artisans. Quilts, jewelry, woodwork and floral arrangements are sold alongside locally grown produce. Trinity Lutheran member Shirley Peterson designs fresh cut bouquets with blooms from vendors gardens.
"It's not a 'true' farmer's market in the sense that we have arts," Kratz said. "Not everybody just wants to eat."
Kratz said the market started this year in June and will run through September, but it's contingent on weather. If there is an early thaw in the spring, or an extended growing season, the market may begin sooner or end later in the year.
CULTIVATING A COMMUNITY
"It took a little while for people to find [Holmes City Farmer's Market], but little by little, people started coming and staying for a cup of coffee and conversation," Kratz said.
She added that the coffee has gotten its own reputation for being the best egg-coffee around. Egg-coffee is touted as a Scandinavian secret, a secret Kratz's husband, Dave, doesn't mind sharing.
From that cup of coffee percolated another idea. Why not bring the fresh food from the market outside inside for community breakfasts?
The committee, comprised of Kratz, Lemmon, Leeann Jorgensen, Linda Nadgwick and Pam Erickson, formed a volunteer-based breakfast crew and started serving nutritious breakfasts made from locally harvested foods. Breakfasts are free, but goodwill offerings are welcome. Offerings are put toward the church's building fund to help cover a new handicap-accessible dining room that was added two years ago.
Kratz said the crew has served approximately 100 people each Saturday. She encourages people to arrive closer to 9 a.m.
The church sponsors the market and breakfasts, but the committee governs the events.
"We're committed to doing this so we can help give low-income families some good nutritional food and information on how to use it in their diets."
Diane Kratz, Holmes City Farmer's Market Committee Member
Kratz said there are two main driving forces behind hosting the community market and breakfasts. One, is to incorporate fresh produce into people's diets for healthier living. The second is to provide good nutrition for low-income families.
Funding for the community breakfasts has come in the form of grants. A $2,000 Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant was awarded to help with advertising, equipment and start up expenses - the food.
SHIP also donated 100 reusable tote bags advertising Douglas, Pope, Stevens, Traverse and Grant county farmers' markets. Kratz, Lemmon and Erickson will be representing the 5-county area at the Food Access Summit 2013 in Duluth on August 13 through 15.
A Minnesota Department of Human Services grant has been received that will pay for an EBT card reader machine and set-up costs for the first year participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). A dollar amount has not been assigned to the grant but it will cover the expenses and is between $1,000 and $2,000, Kratz said.
People will be able to buy fresh produce at the farmer's market with their SNAP benefits.
"We hope to be up and running in early August," Kratz said. "We're committed to doing this so we can help give low-income families some good nutritional food and information on how to use it in their diets."
The Holmes City Farmer's Market is open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until noon. Breakfasts are served from 9 to 11 a.m. Trinity Lutheran church is located at 5760 County Road 4W SW Holmes City. For more information, call Diane Kratz at (320) 886-5421.
FOUNDED ON MINNESOTA GROUND
Holmes City Farmer's Market features these Minnesota products:
Swany White Milling, Freeport - Oatmeal, whole grain flour, rye flour
Fernbrook, Alexandria (sold here) - Maple syrup
Leatherwood Vinegary, Long Prairie - Flavored vinegar
Smude's Sunflower Oil, Pierz - Cold-pressed sunflower oil
Fruitful Seasons Dairy, Alexandria - cheese
Crystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.