Connecting kids to local foods at the farmers market!

by Lauren Kollauf from the Healthiest State Intiative

Connecting kids to local foods at the farmers market

Kids know where to find the POP Club at the Mason City Farmers Market on Tuesdays. The booth has been a popular stop for families to connect with their local food systems and have a hands-on experience with healthy fresh fruits and vegetables. 

A mainstay at POP Club is the 2-Bite Challenge: If a child takes two bites of a food found in the market, they earn a $2 voucher that can be spent at the farmers market. So far this season, kids have sampled rhubarb, snap peas and strawberries. 

“The biggest reason that we have POP Club is to encourage children to start young having experiences with local, healthy food in a fun and supportive way to encourage lifelong healthy habits,” said Lisa Packer, local food coordinator for Healthy Harvest of North Iowa.

RELATED: 2021 Double Up Food Bucks farmers markets

Healthy Harvest has helped coordinate POP Club in Mason City for the past three years. Thanks to support from a local sponsor, they’ve been able to hire an on-site coordinator for the program and expand it to the Clear Lake Farmers Market this season. Both Mason City and Clear Lake markets are Double Up Food Bucks participating sites. 

In addition to the 2-Bite Challenge, POP Club also features a new weekly activity, such as identifying which fruits and vegetables come from which seeds. Plus, a different community resource is invited to the booth each week – from WIC to 4-H to the local landfill – to offer education to families. 

Create a POP Club in your community!

POP (Power of Produce) Club is a program created by the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) and resources are available on their website for FMC members to start their own club, including a guidebook, templates, logos and an activity guide.

Youth Vending!

This is the first season of youth vending at the Mason Farmers Market.  The program gives young people, up to 18 years of age, the opportunity to sell handcrafts and homegrown produce at no cost to them. In offering local youth this opportunity, we hope to introduce them to various skills, including marketing, decision-making, record-keeping, monetary skills, interpersonal skills and building their knowledge of the farmers market and local food community. Youth gain these skills in their own communities with support and encouragement that will carry with them as they continue on through other life experiences.

The program is expanding from the Clear Lake Farmers Market which is going on their third year. The youth vendors have brought a variety of goods to market including produce, flowers, baked goods, granola, coffee and many handcrafted products. The hard work and creativity put into these products has been impressive and it’s exciting to see how well the customers interact with and encourage the kids.

Information on this program can be found at www.masoncityfarmersmarket.com. The program is free to anyone 18 years and younger. We are currently seeking sponsors for this program and would be happy to discuss the details of sponsorship with anyone interested. Equipment needed for the implementation of the program needs updating. Thank you!

Kids Activities

Kids activities are back at the Mason City Farmers Market for the 2021 season.  As in years past, a variety of activities and crafts will be offered throughout the season.  The activities appeal to a variety of ages and interests. POP Kids Club is a kid favorite! Every Tuesday from 4-6:00 pm join the fun, get a 2-bite challenge and receive your $2 farmers market voucher. Power of Produce encourages children to engage in their local food system in a fun and interactive way. 

POP has a new on-site coordinator who has partnered with local agencies to create a hands on program for kids. Start young to help kids create an overall healthy and happy lifestyle. Jennifer is a wonderful teacher and has planned a great curriculum this season.

Aimee’s Craft Corner has also joined at Market every Tuesday until mid-August. Aimee is a preschool teacher at Roosevelt and serves on our board of directors. The kids this season have made watering bottles to help keep them gardens and flowers watered. They also made bird feeders with seeds for their own backyards or porches. Check back at the market or on our social media pages to see what is next for the kids craft corner with Aimee.  

If you are interested in sponsoring an activity, or donating materials or time by volunteering please contact healthyharvestlisa@gmail.com.  We are always looking for materials, remnant crafting materials for the activities and volunteers. 

It is an exciting time at the farmers market!

By Judy Delperdang

It’s an exciting time at the farmers market! More produce is coming into season!

There’s still the early spring vegetables, like lettuce, asparagus, and radishes, as well as spring/summer fruits like rhubarb and strawberries.

You can shop for your favorites, or branch out and try something new.

My go-to cookbook this time of year is “Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook” by Beth Dooley. It’s a treasure-trove of information, allowing me to be brave and adventurous in my shopping. It lists every food item you’d find at the market, from fruits and vegetables to herbs and meat. There’s generally a description of the item, a cook’s note, quick serving ideas and a couple of recipes.

If you’re on the hunt for radishes, you might find Easter egg radishes, French breakfast radishes or daikons. For a quick idea, Dooley says to shred a daikon, toss with sesame oil and season with rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro.

One of my favorite ways of preparing radishes is to roast them. It gives them a more mellow flavor, with a little less bite. You can also save and saute the radish tops.

Roasted radishes:

2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and cleaned

1 Tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and carefully add radishes. Sprinkle with salt and cover. Hold the pan’s handle and lid with potholders and “shake” every minute or two (like popcorn). Cook for 15-20 minutes until browned on the outside and tender on the inside.

Find your favorites from your favorite vendors. But get there early – before they sell out!

The Clear Lake Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Surf Ballroom parking lot. You can also find us online at www.clearlakefarmersmarket.com, as well as Facebook and Instagram. The Mason City Farmers Market is Tuesday and Friday from 4:00-6:00 pm in downtown Mason City on the corner of 1st NE and Delaware Ave. Find us on Instagram and Facebook as well as on our webpage. http://www.masoncityfarmersmarket.com

New to farmers markets? Give it a try!

If you’re new to the Farmers Market it may seem foreign or overwhelming at first. What’s makes an “heirloom tomato” so special? Why should you buy “pasture-raised, heritage breed” pork? What makes bread “artisan”? And Duck Eggs??? REALLY????

BUT, if you just stop by a time or two you’ll soon start to feel like part of the family. The Live music is back on this year and it gives the market a fun, festive atmosphere.  It really doesn’t matter what you know or don’t know… the vendors are all amazing at explaining what makes their local products special and they will be more than willing to share their passion about growing, raising, or creating their items! They are happy to answer ANY and ALL questions and if you take the time to talk to them you might be amazed at what dinners can turn into!

Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s worth the time to stop by to experience the fun atmosphere, free activities and the other programs.  In addition to the live music there will be Youth Venders (young entrepreneurs trying their hand at selling their creations), hands on children’s activities, taste testing opportunities – from time to time, and other special events. It’s so much fun to meet a friend at the market and browse the items that are being showcased by the small businesses in our community. You might even run into a long lost friend or find yourself in a deep conversation about the most delicious vegetables you’ve ever experienced. 

Even though the market season is just getting going this year, don’t wait too long to stop by.  The “seasons” changes quickly in North Iowa and just as the asparagus and rhubarb will only be around for a few short weeks, soon we’ll be into green beans  and tomatoes, and then onto squash and potatoes. Experience all these changes and by putting a Reminder on Your Calendar to head down to the downtown Mason City to experience all that the Mason City Farmers Market offers this season. 4-6:00 pm 1st NE & Delaware Ave.

SEE YOU AT THE MARKET!

The 2021 Farmers Market Season OPENS to bring the best local options for customers and vendors!

Opening day in Clear Lake is Saturday, May 15th from 9-12:00 pm! And Tuesday, May, 18th from 4-6:00 pm at the Mason City Farmers Market.

We are keeping up to date with public health recommendations and will be modifying the market as needed. Plan to come out and support local farmers, vendors and our entire community. 

Watch for information about the NEW Kids Club program called, POP. Power of Produce beginning in June. As well as a Veggie Voucher program NEW to our area.

Returning to the farmers market is Curbside Market. Online ordering for pickup at the curb will be available. Also returning is our centralized SNAP machine that is available at every market with Double Up Food Bucks cards to stretch your food budget. Redeem at Clear Lake or Mason City Farmers Market.

Check our website, facebook and instagram for updates on special events, music and activities!

With the great spring weather, expect to see beautiful early produce, delectable baked goods, artisanal breads, beef, pork, and poultry. And as always, local honey, chicken eggs, duck eggs, handcrafted soaps, lotions, bug repellent, handmade jewelry, hand sewn items, beautiful glass and pottery creations, beautiful cut flower arrangements, and so, SO much more!

We’re very thankful for how the market has grown over the last couple of years and excited to see what’s next at the Clear Lake Farmers Market. 

SO…Mark your calendars for Saturday mornings from 9am to noon May 15th at the Surf Ballroom and Tuesday, May 18th in Mason City from4-6:00 pm at 1st NE & Delaware. 

The market is a great way to support our local economy!

We are hiring a Market Manager for the 2021 season!

We are in search of a Market Manager for the 2021 season at the Mason City Famers Market. We believe in the benefit of this role as a key to the success of our local farmers market. Ideal candidates should be personable to both vendors and customers. As well as physically able to set-up/break-down each market day. Our Board is open to a co-manager proposal.

Please review our Market Manager position description. Interested parties should submit an application using the form below. Thank you! We look forward to working with you to continue an amazing farmers market here in Mason City.

Market Manager Application

Seasonal & local

By Marie Boyd, Executive Director of Healthy Harvest of North Iowa

The crisp air and changing leaves tell us that farmers market season will soon be coming to an end. When it does, there are still several options when it comes to buying local foods. 

First, there is a database on our website (healthyharvestni.com) where you can search for local products such as meat, eggs, honey, storage crops (squash, potatoes, carrots, onions etc.) and purchase directly from the farms – sometimes for delivery! 

Other options include Simply Nourished on Main Street in Clear Lake, and the Hy-Vee stores in Mason City who try to offer local products year-round. 

Until then, shop the Clear Lake Farmers Market, through Oct. 17, and enjoy the bounty of the season! 

KABOCHA SQUASH MASH

You can substitute any sweet winter squash for the kabocha here – like butternut or buttercup! Ingredients with an asterisk (*) are available seasonally right here in North Iowa! 

INGREDIENTS

1 large kabocha squash*

1/4 cup full-fat canned coconut milk + more for serving

2-3 tbsp honey* (to taste)

2 tbsp whisky (optional)

1/4 tsp to 1/2 ground cinnamon to taste

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp sea salt to taste

Optional toppings: pecans, roasted squash seeds

INSTRUCTIONS

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the pith and seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and cinnamon and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven, 45-55 minutes, or until flesh is very soft when poked with a fork.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the coconut milk, honey, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mash and stir until everything is well combined.Add more cinnamon, sea salt, and/or honey to taste.

Serve with additional coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, and pecans

Yield: 2 -4 servings

Adapted from The Roasted Root

Food preservation!

By Laura Tidrick

Interest in preserving food has increased this year. Canning supplies, specifically lids, are difficult (if not impossible) to come by. I personally can a variety of vegetables, jams, sauces and meat, and panicked when I couldn’t find lids in the stores. I have since found enough but for those who don’t have the supplies or would prefer not to can there are still a variety of ways to preserve all kinds of food.

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to save food for future use. When I don’t have the time to can tomatoes, I often freeze them in air tight containers or freezer bags and take them out in the winter when I have more time to make a large batch of sauce. A bonus of saving some canning for cold winter days is that you actually want the heat and humidity in your home vs a hot August day. A variety of foods can be frozen including herbs, greens, meats, vegetables and even eggs.

Short on freezer space? We often are as we raise pork and poultry and our freezers are generally full in the fall. Dehydrating is another great way to preserve food. We have a cheap dehydrator that makes all kinds of noise but we put it in the garage while it’s running and are able to dehydrate all kinds of things. One of our favorite things to dehydrate is mushrooms. We forage for morel mushrooms and also buy shiitake mushrooms from a local farmer.They dehydrate easily, and when allowed to set in a bowl of water they come to life again beautifully. They can also be added directly to a pot of stock as it’s boiling for extra flavor. Apples, other fruits, meat and many other things can be put in a dehydrator. Many herbs can be air dried easily too. I often tie up bunches of sage, oregano, parsley and other herbs and hang them in the basement or garage for later use.

Interested in learning more about preservation?  The Central Gardens of North Iowa holds a yearly “Preservation Celebration”. This years’ event will be held virtually on September 18th. Visit https://centralgardensnorthiowa.com/ for details

What’s in season?

What’s in season?  ONIONS!  It seems that onions are one of those foods where you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.  As for me, onions are one of my absolute favorite foods.  They can be pickled, caramelized, fried or eaten raw.  There’s red, yellow, green, sweet, white, scallions – so many varieties and all delicious.  With the weather beginning to change and cooler nights coming I thought I would share one of my all-time favorite recipes and favorite ways to eat onions: French Onion Soup.  Below is my own take on this classic:

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 c. thinly sliced onions
  • 2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ c. Beef Stock, hot
  • 4-5 Tbsp brandy
  • ½ c. vermouth
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Fresh Thyme leaves
  • 8 toasted baguette slices ¼ – ½ in. thick
  • Swiss/provolone cheese slices

Directions:

  1. Set sauce pan over medium heat with butter and oil.  When the butter has melted stir in the onions, cover and cook slowly until translucent – about 10 minutes or so. 
  2. Blend in sugar and turn the heat to medium-high, let the onions brown, stirring often until they turn a dark walnut color. 25-30 minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook slowly, stirring for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 c. of stock.  When blended, bring to a simmer, adding the rest of the stock, brandy and vermouth.
  5. Cover loosely and simmer very slowly for 1 ½ hours, adding in more stock if the liquid reduces too much.
  6. Add 1 tsp thyme leaves, salt and pepper
  7. Ladle soup into your bowls, top with 2 bread slices, 2 slices of cheese, thyme leaves and broil until cheese bubbles. Enjoy!