By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News
Posted 2/12/14 (Wed)
If you have an interest in gardening, farmers’ markets, canning, preserving or just local foods in general, be sure to stop by the Grand Hotel in Minot Feb. 14 and 15 for the North Dakota Farmers’ Market and Growers Association and Local Foods convention.
The local foods movement is picking up steam all across North Dakota as more people are growing their own vegetables and becoming concerned about where their food comes from.
In March 2005, I joined the North Dakota Farmers’ Market and Growers Association and was elected to the board of directors that same year. There were 14 farmers’ markets in the state and two; one in Carpio and one in Kenmare sprang up that year.
By 2007, a new market started in downtown Minot and Kenmare and Stanley joined a consortium called North Prairie Farmers’ Markets. The consortium still exists and at its peak had 10 markets in north-central North Dakota.
Since 2005, the state organization has grown to as many as 60 farmers’ markets in North Dakota and although six have faded away, we still have a robust industry going and we’ll all be in Minot to celebrate and learn the latest on local foods.
It’s going on in the cities and small towns. Farmers’ markets have become as much a social event as it has a sale of produce or baked goods.
Many of us talk about the “example,” that being the farmers’ market in downtown Grand Forks. Extremely popular, well attended and most often sold out, this market sets the standard.
Not to be outdone, there are a handful of markets in commmunities of 200 people or less and several of them are doing well financially.
The convention brings those people together to mingle for a weekend, attend seminars, talk to each other and plan for the future.
But it’s not just for farmers and vendors. Consumers have a critical stake in what happens with farmers’ markets and local foods.
As the markets have increased, so has the popularity of organic produce, canning, freezing and preserving food items like our grandparents did. The difference is they had to do it to survive. We’re doing it because we want better quality food.
These conventions are always a lot of fun and rotate from year to year. Three years ago we were in Jamestown, two years ago we were in Fargo and last year the convention was held in Bismarck.
This year we want to set the bar a little higher with the convention at the Grand Hotel. We’d love to see record attendance and consumers are sure welcome.
Some of the agenda items include grafting, high tunnel varieties, business development, ergonomics of gardening, improving soil health, packaging and labeling, specialty crop opportunities, financial options, marketing through social media, food tours and growing crops once thought to be impossible.
In addition, a number of keynote speakers will highlight their topics and a local foods banquet will take place Friday night.
The weekend begins on Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. with registration and wraps up Saturday, Feb. 15 with meteorologist Greg Gust discussing trends in the weather.
The convention will also feature Bruce Smith, the Dawson County agent in Montana who attends our convention every year as he is spearheading a drive similar to ours in eastern Montana.
Smith is close to 7 feet tall and he should be in radio because he has the voice for it, but all kidding aside, he is to be commended for his effort. Smith has said numerous times he loves visiting with gardeners and consumers to learn the latest trends.
One of those trends is in craft brewing of beer. Mike Frohlich of Laughing Sun Brewery in Bismarck will talk about craft beers in North Dakota and the desperate need for locally grown hops.
Jamie Good, the local foods representative with the North Dakota Department of Agriculture is working with several people across the state to develop a hops industry so local breweries can use local hops. Right now, the majority of hops is coming from the state of Washington or is imported from New Zealand.
Come out and join the fun, the education and the food. the convention is sponsored by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture and registration forms are available on the department’s web site or by contacting Good at 328-2659.
As always, it promises to be a lot of fun with a few surprises and spirited debates thrown in.