Farmers ready for market

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 3, 2002

The gardeners and growers for the Austin Farmer's Market have been thinking and planning for the future since January. They will be ready with their fresh produce and wares starting at 4 p.m. Monday, May 20, when the market will be open for business at the Oak Park Mall parking lot.

Bedding plants, asparagus, rhubarb and radishes will be sold by local growers on this day. Baked goods will be available by home bakers for those who have been missing these goodies.

John Ulland of Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch is in charge of the Farmer's Market in Austin. He says the Austin Farmer's Market

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needs more venders. For a vender to sell their locally grown produce or home-baked goods, the cost to set up a table is $55 for the season. This covers an insurance policy the farmer's market association has for liability. There is also a seasonal pass for those who want to get a feel of the market. Those vendors that want to see how they would do selling their wares pay $25 for a five-time trial bases. Vendors come from a 35-mile radius, Ulland said they are not real strict with the rules and if someone is coming from 40 miles away they are welcome to sell their wares.

"We really need more vendors. Austin can support a lot more vendors then we have. We are trying to get more young people involved. We have a very small budget and can not advertise enough. People forget about us. We are at the Oak Park Mall every Monday and Thursday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m." said Ulland.

There was a senior program through Channel One that offered seniors $20 a season to purchase fresh goods at the Farmer's Market. Ulland says this hasn't been as successful as it could be as seniors sometimes have a difficulty getting to the Farmer's Market. The WIC program also used to supply certificates and young families came to the market to spend money but this has been cut too.

"The Oak Park Mall announces we are open on their

billboard, but this isn't enough. We need someone to do legwork and get it known we are here every week. It is hard for us growers to do it. There are not enough hours in the day to do everything," said Ulland.

Cheryl Ehlke of Willowdale Greenhouse in rural St. Ansgar makes her living exclusively from her gardens. She recently planted a new asparagus bed of 500 plants. These won't be ready to sell for three years. She has 7,000 onion plants growing along with broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, peas, kohlrabi and potatoes.

"Things are really slow this year. Nothing is coming up fast. I got excited when we had that 90-degree day and now it's been so cold," said Ehlke.

Ehlke makes most of her money from raspberries and she sells and makes 25 different kinds of jellies.

Ulland says when people start buying from the Farmer's Market they know exactly where their food comes from.

"The food is grown close to where the buyer lives. It is picked fresh that day and we help support local growers. There is a fellowship among growers and sellers, Customers know who grew the food they are eating," said Ulland.