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Fresh, local: Farmers Market

The Breadsmith stand is a popular one at the Farmers Market. The Fargo business offers a variety of breads each week. (Brian Basham/Beachin')

'Tis the season for farming, and for organic farmers in the area, it also means the beginning of the Detroit Lakes Farmer's Market.

This year's summertime bounty, it's 11th year in the area, will kick off May 23 and continue through October. Vendors will fill City Park every Tuesday and Saturday through summer from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Farmers Market Board President Ryan Pesch, who operates his own organic farm, said early spring will feature seedlings for visitors to start planting their own home gardens, as well as spring greens, lettuce, herbs, kale, kohlrabi and asparagus.

Into June, he said, the first strawberries will be available. "High season," between the beginning of July until September, yields things like potatoes, summer squash, melons, tomatoes and sweet corn. Into fall, pumpkins and winter squash will become more common.

Throughout the season, though, baked goods, arts and crafts, honey and maple syrup will be available.

During the high season, Pesch said there will be around 20 vendors, averaging around 15. In early spring and late fall, though, it tapers off.

"It waxes and wanes depending on how much is there and what's going on," Pesch said of the number of vendors. "Sometimes DL has so many events, since we're always in City Park and that's where they have lots of events."

Nevertheless, the popularity of the Farmer's Market has grown exponentially in the last five years, Pesch said.

"We certainly increased the number of vendors by 40 to 50 percent, and we certainly have seen an increase especially in last three to four years in the number of customers," Pesch said. "Every year it gets better."

In fact, he said, sometimes the vendors simply can't bring enough produce to satiate the customers' appetites.

"It often becomes something of a supply issue. They'll come late and a lot of stuff is gone," he said. "We all come with as much as we can, but we can't always supply enough."

The reason for the spike in favor? Pesch said it could be the many recent food scares, and that more people want to get to know their growers.

"If you buy it directly from the grower, you can ask them about practices, and people feel more connected in certain ways," he said. "Most people buy their groceries in stores the size of airplane hangers, and there's no personality to it."

Besides that, he said, it's just a "healthy lifestyle thing," that people are starting to pay more attention to how their food is produced and it's sustainability.

And, he said, don't be afraid of price tags -- most stuff is comparable to grocery store prices, unless it's something that you simply wouldn't find at a grocery store, like heirloom tomatoes or yellow wax beans.

Look for highlights this summer at the Farmer's Market, including the return of their chef's demo, in the style of the popular Food Network program, "Iron Chef."

"The whole idea behind it was the chef comes in and we tip in some products, meats and produce, and they're on the spot to come up with dishes," Pesch explained.

Last year, they had one on a Tuesday in the City Park bandshell and about 100 people showed up - this year, they're planning two Saturday dates.

Pesch and the rest of the board are also planning their customer appreciation day, and a monthly newsletter, available at a new general information stand.

Finally, Pesch said, they're looking for someone to take the post of Market Manager, a person to oversee the day-to-day market activities. The person would get paid a stipend, he said. Anyone interested should contact Pesch at home: 218-342-2619.

"Mainly because the market has really grown, and up until this point, it had just been vendors as volunteers trying to make it work, but it's a really good sign that we actually need someone," he said.