How to Find your Favorite Local Market Goods in the Winter Season

Our summer market season may be over, but your access to the area’s best, locally produced goods doesn’t have to end! The Farmers Market at the Willowbrook Mall Winter season is underway, providing consumers with their favorite local goods now through December 25th.


Beth Smith of Rosehill Farms is a vendor at the Clear Lake Farmers Market and also participates in the Farmers Market at Willowbrook Mall. Beth’s jams and jellies are a crowd favorite, particularly her pepper jellies.

The Farmers Market at Willowbrook Mall operates every Friday, from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. at 1631 4th St. SW, Willowbrook Mall in Mason City. This market features a variety of vendors from both the North Iowa and Clear Lake Farmers Markets offering a wide selection of goods and products including baked goods, jams, jellies, honey, farm fresh eggs, treats, crafts, fresh baked breads and more!

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Feature Friday: Eagle Lake Gardens

On a 300 acre farm near Britt, Iowa Bill Rasmuson farmed corn and soybeans commercially for years. Still living on his same childhood farm, Bill fondly remembers the memories made there, especially the large plot of raspberries they grew every year. For Bill, agriculture is in his roots, a part of who he is. It seemed natural then in his retirement to take up produce farming.
Bill, an accomplished scholar and longtime lover of the land, has transformed the family farm to produce a wide variety of produce including tomatoes, garlic, herbs, carrots, radishes, lettuce, asparagus, rhubarb, eggplant, cucumber, peas, green beans, zucchini, watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, pumpkins, gourds, apples and more.


The latest addition to the selection at Eagle Lake Garden’s booth at the market includes cute, painted pumpkins! 

“I do a lot of double cropping in the short Iowa growing season, allowing me to produce more without having to prepare and use more land,” Bill says. “Every time you put a seed or a plant in the ground, you have to be thinking ahead and have a plan. Crop rotations are crucial in this business.”

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Feature Friday: Mary’s Farm Fresh Brown Eggs

Gary and Mary Tomlinson have always had a passion for caring for animals and raising livestock. They milked dairy cows, raised draft horses and many other animals through the years. They also enjoyed caring for chickens, pigeons and guinea fowl. They never dreamed that this hobby would turn into a small business after their retirement.


In addition to chickens, the Tomlinson Farm has many furry friends including goats, cats and a dog.

Living on a farm west of Manly, Gary and Mary have about 80 ISA Brown chickens, 40 banty (smaller breed) chickens, 10 goats, numerous cats and a Saint Bernard. The farm fresh eggs they sell at the market come from the ISA Browns, beautiful golden brown layer hens. These cage free chickens spend the evenings in the comfort of the barn and in the daytime in a pen outside where they can hunt and peck for insects. In addition to what the chickens find outside, Gary mixes a balanced ration that he feeds the layers to ensure a healthy diet for high quality egg production. The eggs are gathered each day and washed before selling. Once the eggs have been washed however, they require refrigeration because washing the egg removes the natural layer of protection that an egg has when it is laid.

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Feature Friday: Otto’s Wood Fired

When Steve Otto retired after a life-long career in the cement and concrete industry, he saw retirement as an opportunity to further explore his interest in masonry. This interest lead to the construction of a homemade, brick oven constructed from primarily recycled materials, including the bricks which were chunks of old concrete. Construction began in September of 2015 and one year later, Steve started using his creation for baking.


In order to keep his costs down, Steve used primarily recycled goods to construct his oven, including the bricks which were old pieces of concrete.

It was difficult at first. Steve spent a lot of time figuring out just how to use the oven to make a consistent and delicious bread, including what the ideal floor and wall temperatures of the structure were ideal for baking bread. During this time, Steve made a variety of modifications to the oven, including insulating the structure.


Steve made many modifications to his original design, including insulating the oven to better regulate the temperature.

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Feature Friday: Huntley Gardens

While Allen Perkins and his wife, Krista, were just finishing up a Ministry Internship in Kansas City and contemplating where life would take them next, Allen received an interesting call from his cousin, Lance. Lance Perkins, an organic farmer from Geneva, MN, had been approached by Wayne and Verlys Huntley, longtime fruit and vegetable farmers, looking for someone to run the farm as their children did not have interest in taking it over. While it was Lance the Huntley’s were pursuing, he immediately thought of Allen and his hard work ethic and called him up with the proposal.

With no farming or gardening background, Allen was apprehensive of the opportunity. “Initially, I thought there was no way I could do this. But God really changed my heart.” Allen said.

After touring Huntley Gardens and talking about the business side of the offer, Allen rolled up his sleeves and got right to work in the 2016 growing season. “More than anything, the first year was like an internship. I learned a lot about the farm and the way the business is run,” Allen reflected. “This year I’m taking on more responsibility and making more decisions”.


After a year at Huntley Gardens, Allen has definitely got a green thumb!

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Farmers Markets Promote Sustainability

Article by Farmers Market Coalition 

Behind the rows of produce, busy vendors, and eager customers, farmers markets are a bustling hub of sustainability. Local farmers deliver fresh, local food to a growing number of shoppers demanding food that is not only healthy, but environmentally friendly. But farmers markets take sustainability a step further. They also ensure farmers can make a living off sustainably grown food, while providing an outlet where communities can find and purchase their products.

Sustainability is the overarching theme in this system. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Each shares in the success of the other in a mutually beneficial relationship that has become a model for sustainability.
Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face a challenging economic climate dominated by large, corporate farms. Many find they cannot compete with the massive volume, low market prices, and government subsidies enjoyed by large operations.

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Feature Friday: Honey Dome Farms, LLC.

After a 29 year banking career, Tammy Fuller had a decision to make: relocate to Des Moines or lose her job with the Bank of America. Tammy didn’t want to uproot her life in Northern Iowa, leaving behind many friends and family so she decided to start her own business brightening people’s day with flowers. Tammy had always enjoyed flowers and putting together beautiful arrangements, so to test her future business idea, she started growing her own flowers and bringing in arrangements to work. Her co-workers loved her arrangements and gave her feedback. It was under these circumstances that Honey Dome Farms, LLC. was born.


One of Tammy’s beautiful floral arrangements. Arrangements come in a variety of sizes to accommodate all budgets!

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North Iowa Farmers Market Vendors Enter Open Class Exhibits

Several vendors from the North Iowa Farmers Market (NIFM) submitted open class exhibits at the North Iowa Fair which opened on Wednesday, July 19th and will conclude on Sunday, July 23rd. NIFM vendors ruled the field and garden category claiming many first and second place ribbons. Congratulations to all the exhibitors! Be sure to go and see their exhibits at the North Iowa Fair!

See the results below:

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Feature Friday: Puffer Roske Farms

Puffer Roske Farms, just northeast of Iowa Falls, is a new vendor to the North Iowa Farmers Market. While it is only their second year of producing fruits and vegetables in Iowa, Charlie and his wife, Lonya Puffer are no strangers to gardening, having many gardens across the United States. Charlie spent 25 years serving in the United States Air Force and would regularly establish a garden where he was stationed. In the spring of 2016, the Puffers worked with co-founder Harold Roske and Puffer Roske Farms was created.
Currently, the operation sits on 149 acres, of which a portion of the land is used for fruit and vegetable production. The Puffer family has plans for expansion, hoping to add cattle (in addition to their pastured pork and poultry) to the mix. They also acquired a 20 by 80 foot greenhouse to utilize in their vegetable production for next year. Though the produce production occupies only 13 acres, the farm is extremely diverse producing blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, a wide variety of peppers, kohlrabi, broccoli, radishes, sweet potatoes, pears, cucumbers, asparagus, okra, rhubarb, sweet corn, watermelon and cantaloupe…just to name a few!


Utilizing old wood chips for mulch helps preserve soil moisture and control weeds on the Puffer Roske Farm without the use of chemicals.

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How to Keep Your Farmers Market Produce Fresh

Source: Holly Ebel- Agri News

One of the hazards of having great farmers markets is that we tend to buy too much. At least I do. Walking around and seeing the varieties of vegetables and greens, it’s hard to pass things up.

Here’s how it goes: Look at that spinach — get two bags. And there are beautiful beets, leeks and carrots. Get some of those. This cauliflower is amazing, and look at that cabbage. Asparagus? Picked last night — two bunches, a bargain at $3 each.

Never once do we doubt that we won’t eat every bit of it. The sad truth is that, on average, we throw out about one-quarter of all the produce we buy from both the market and the grocery store.

Mostly that’s our fault, and not just because we over-bought, but also because we are careless in how we store it. With just a little effort and information, though, we can keep what we bring home fresh and make it last longer — maybe even until the next time we get to the market.

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