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Steady crowds shop Farmers Market for bountiful harvest

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Annora Michaelis, 2, gets a little helping hand from her mother, Shauna Michaelis, as she creates a piece of sand art at the Farmers Market. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 4
Theresa Allard (left) was moving full speed ahead Saturday morning to keep the vegetable tables stocked as she helped her son, David, at the Famers Market in Grand Forks' Town Square. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald) 3 / 4
Miranda Hall says she's a regular at the Saturday market. She loves all the fresh produce and had a full bag already by midmorning. (Janelle Vonasek/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 4

The crowds were as plentiful as the fresh vegetables were bountiful Saturday in the Town Square Farmers Market in downtown Grand Forks.

Foot traffic was steady as hundreds of people streamed in under the water wheel sculpture to make the rounds through the dozens of stands selling everything from beet bunches to baked goods and giant Colorado peaches to pickled cauliflower. Really, there was something for everyone — handmade soap, crafts, toys and quilts, along with lefse, honey, salsa and kettle corn.

Miranda Hall said she comes to the open market almost every week, but this Saturday she came especially for the fresh-baked bread and produce. By midmorning, her bag already was packed with corn, potatoes and zucchini.

"I just like that there's no chemicals used," she said. "And it's supporting local people rather than an industrialized grower."

As she picked out a ruffled bunch of romaine lettuce, she said this time of year always guarantees the best selection of "hearty staples."

"It's just a community thing, and it's nice to see everyone and their family out here to support each other and local business," she said.

New and old

Richard Wedel said this year is the first he has sold his homegrown vegetables, herbs and flowers at the Grand Forks market, and business so far has been good. He and his wife, Rachelle, run their regular Mandt Market in Grafton, N.D.

As customer Harka Damai asks Wedel if his cayenne peppers are hot, Wedel offers him a sample and says "maybe not hot enough for you, but hot enough for me."

After one crunch of the small pepper, Damai agrees they're hot enough for him, too, and buys two boxes.

Several produce stands were spread throughout the square, and business was hopping at every one.

A smiling Theresa Allard of East Grand Forks says she's retired, but she looked anything but retired this morning as she worked nonstop pulling bunches of beets and carrots from water troughs to restock the tables piled high with produce. Twelve gunny sacks filled with fresh sweet corn surrounded two grocery carts overflowing with the same.

"I'm trying to keep my veggies filled up," she said. "But they're hard to keep full."

Son David Allard runs the longtime family business now, she said, but on days like these he needs all the help he can get. Theresa's daughter, Renee Elbinger, and granddaughter, Justine Ostby, also were kept busy as they helped weigh, bag and stock vegetables to keep the lines swift.

Lois Magnusson and daughter Molly Soeby made it even faster as they tag-team shopped, one standing back from the fray and telling the other what to grab. A baby stroller served as their cart — the baby safe with parents but displaced now by a heap of garden goods.

Hands-on fun

Children laughed and danced in front of the live stage as upbeat guitar music filled the whole square. Others took a break at picnic tables while they sipped cold coffee or had a bite to eat.

Kevin and Katie Hill Brandt were back in town for a family wedding this weekend and brought their children downtown for a little fun.

Six-year-old Sonora showed off the sand jar she created with waves of pink, purple, blue and white sand. It was one of her favorite things, she said, along with the face painting. A bright blue-and-pink butterfly sparkled across her face. Her brother, Harris, 3, painted as a pint-sized pirate, said he liked the candy best.

Pepper Moen of Pepper's Crafts and Stuff said she has been bringing her sand art to the square for seven years, and it's always a big hit.

"It's fun and colorful," she said, and the children love to squeeze the puffs of fine sand through funnels and into wavy jars or fun shapes.

"The moms are always saying, 'careful, careful,' and I say 'no, let them go.'"

Neecon Mardani made an artsy sand jar for a friend while Annora Michaelis, 2, got a little help from her mom, Shauna Michaelis. Nine-month-old Harris Michaelis was along just for the ride this time, but maybe he'll get a turn next year.

Market Director Caryl Lester said the market, which accepts SNAP, will continue from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 30. She said an indoor market also is in the works for October.

The season has been strong so far, she said.

"It's so weather-dependent, but the crowds have been pretty consistent," she said. "It's a rain-or-shine market. It doesn't hurt the produce at all to have a few sprinkles on it.

"It is nice to see the people get behind the farmers, especially, and support them in their operations."