Crystal Hotchkiss of Grand Forks was anxious to buy jars of “Cowboy Candy,” candied jalapeno pickles, from Two Sisters Bakery at the first Farmers Market of the season Saturday, June 20, by City Hall downtown.
Hotchkiss was on a mission to please her father, Pete Bradley of Williston, N.D., she said. “We bought enough to last him a year, and he's run out. He told me to buy more.”
The on-and-off, drizzling rain didn’t seem to dampen customers’ enthusiasm for the produce and other items at the Farmers Market, being held for the second summer on North Fourth Street. Earlier, the event was held in Town Square on DeMers Avenue near the Red River.
“Some say they come to the market just for us,” said Malcolm Oatman, who owns Hometown Pies in Devils Lake. “We have a following. They say they couldn’t wait for us to get here.”
“I’ve sold out of blueberry,” said Oatman, who’s been a vendor here for seven years, “but we have seven kinds today.”
Like other vendors, he wore a face mask and said he had “no concerns” about the coronavirus. Before the event, he wondered about the possible presence of protesters, he said. “We’re right in front of City Hall.” But if they showed up, were peaceful and “if they wanted to buy pie while protesting, I’m okay with that.”
Wes Peck, Grand Forks, was eager to make a purchase at French Taste.
“The smoked salmon crepe is the number one draw,” Peck said. A regular Farmers Market customer, he also was looking for specialty breads from Half Brothers Brewery, and the bagels from Two Sisters Bakery “don’t last too long at our house.”
He wasn’t worried about contracting the coronavirus; he was glad to be doing “something normal,” he said. “I just wanted to come down and see how it was handled this year.”
Charlotte Landsem, of Charlotte’s Homemade Lefse, Edmore, N.D., said, “I can’t believe how many people are out. I’m doing pretty well in spite of the weather.”
She’s been staying at home quite a bit because of the pandemic, she said. “So I’m just excited to be out today, and to see people.”
Mark and Tina Egeroff, owners of Two Sisters Bagels, Winger, Minn., placed an empty, cloth-covered table in front of their display to create more distance from customers, in keeping with market requirements.
They have been Farmers Market vendors for 14 years. This year, because of the coronavirus, they cannot offer samples, a gesture that attracts customers, especially new customers, Tina Egeroff said, “so sales are going to be ‘iffy.’”
Regulars, though, like Patrick and Peggy Jo Archer, Grand Forks Air Force Base, were not put off by pandemic restrictions or a little rain, they said. They huddled with their eight-month-old baby girl, Mila, under the canopy and bought jams from the Egeroffs.
“We love this place,” said Peggy Jo Archer.
She and her husband weren’t worried about COVID-19, they said. “We’re outside; there’s plenty of fresh air,” Patrick Archer said. “And we know (vendors) are taking precautions to keep everyone safe,” his wife said.
Tim Szymanski, of Szymanski Farms, Thief River Falls, also said he had no health concerns at the market where he sells grass-fed beef and lamb and pastured pork.
Since the pandemic surfaced, he’s noticed increased consumer demand for bulk purchases, which he attributes to “food insecurity,” he said. “We’re sold out of quarters and halves of beef and hogs through August.”
Chad Lindgren, of Maggie’s Catering and Bakery, Karlstad, Minn., said, because of restrictions, he’s put out fewer racks of products than in the past, and “people are not supposed to touch them,” so his signs ask customers to request assistance.
Because of the pandemic, “it’s all new yet,” he said, but customers are happy to see comforting old favorites, including the popular dipped ginger cookies, brownies, pies and carrot bars.