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Farmers' market marks anniversary in Kenmare

North Prairie Farmers’ Market held its first sale of the 2015 season in Kenmare’s downtown square Thursday with little fanfare even though it passed a major milestone.

7/28/15 (Tue)

Farmers’ Market has 20 year history here . . .  Barb and Al Scherbenske have been stalwarts at the farmers’ market in Kenmare for nearly a decade. Kenmare has had a farmers’ market for more than 20 years, but in 2005 it was reorganized into a consortium called North Prairie Farmers’ Markets.

By Marvin Baker

North Prairie Farmers’ Market held its first sale of the 2015 season in Kenmare’s downtown square Thursday with little fanfare even though it passed a major milestone.

The market has now been in operation for 10 years, but more importantly, it was a one-day market in Kenmare on Aug. 4, 2005, that began a consortium of farmers’ markets that popped up across north-central North Dakota.

The consortium was created by Northwest Venture Communities Inc., in Minot. It was an idea that would fit small-town consumers with local gardeners and vegetable producers.

The model also included one vendor fee to sell at any of the North Prairie Farmers’ Markets.

Coincidentally, farmers’ markets were beginning to flourish across North Dakota, thanks to start-up grants through the state Agriculture Department.

It didn’t take long and North Prairie had markets operating in Bowbells, Minot, Velva, Drake, Powers Lake, Stanley, Mohall, Granville and Glenburn.

Today, Minot, along with Kenmare, are the only two that remain in business.

The North Dakota Farmers’ Market and Growers Association board of directors has often addressed the correlation between consumer and vendor and one of the recurring issues is having enough vendors for each market.

Generally, there is a shortage of vendors at all 56 farmers’ markets across North Dakota. When North Prairie-Kenmare started, there were 14 farmers’ markets in North Dakota.

“Providing an outlet for Kenmare to get fresh produce is great,” said Jamie Good, a local food specialist with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture. “The farmers’ market is another option of getting fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Good said the fact that the Kenmare market has now been around 10 years, is a testament to the growers and the customers in the region.

“To have that market continue, proves North Dakotans are supporting North Dakotans,” Good said. “And the more the Ag Department can do to showcase our markets, I think consumers are willing to take part.”

Good also talked about the shortage of vendors across the state and encourages young people to get involved as vendors.

“You’ve got to start small and what better way to do that than the local farmers’ market,” Good said. “Next thing you know, you can evolve, you get bigger and you’re selling to grocery store chains. But, you’ve got to start somewhere.”

When the Kenmare market opened Thursday, two vendors were present with fresh garden produce and baked goods.

Market Manager Al Scherbenske said he would like to see more vendors participating because more vendors bring out more customers because of the additional variety.

According to North Dakota farmers’ market bylaws, locally grown and produced goods may be sold at markets across the state.

Produce and baked goods are a given, but honey, cut flowers, textiles, jams, salsas and homemade jewelry items are allowed, as long as they are locally produced.

And in the past 10 years, Kenmare has had its share of vendors, however, some have retired, some have fallen on ill health and still others have moved away.

That doesn’t leave many gardeners to sell their wares considering Kenmare would draw local vendors as well as those from Carpio, Donnybrook and Bowbells.

In fact, Jane Kalmbach was co-founder of a farmers’ market that was the predecessor to North Prairie.

She and Loren Helmers of Donnybrook started a market in Kenmare in 1994 or 1995.

“It used to be just huge here in Kenmare,” Kalmbach said. “It was good. We had at least a dozen vendors. We had people standing in line. It was good and it was busy.”

She isn’t sure what changed. Perhaps it was the change in the market’s time from 9 a.m. to noon, to 4:30 to sell out. Or, it may be that vendors aren’t able to commit enough time each week.

“Louann Nelson was a great draw,” Kalmbach said. “People just loved her tomatoes.”

When Kalmbach was involved, she said the market had committed vendors that showed up every week rain or shine, or in many cases, gale-force winds.

“I sold 20 dozen cookies a week,” Kalmbach said. “That’s besides rolls, bars and jellies. We had a good variety of items, or maybe people expected it.”

Kalmbach said she was involved for four or five years.

The Scherbenskes have seen a steady business through the years and have stuck it out.

And Kenmare is no different than any other market in North Dakota, customers line up to look over and get their goods at the beginning of the market and sales gradually slow down throughout the rest of the session.

“It gets pretty intense at the beginning, Scherbenske said. “It falls off after that, but we’re busy when we open.”

The market is held every Thursday beginning at 4:30 p.m., in the downtown square... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!