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Killarney Farmers’ Market Heads Downtown

“More and more people are coming to the farmers’ markets, and it’s really growing. This is our fourth year, and sales have gone up 25 per cent.”

– RICHARD GROSS OF THE MAYFAIR COLONY

It was a whole new playing field July 3 as the Killarney Farmers Market vendors set up their stalls for the first sale of the season in a new location – downtown.

And although it was only July 3, the four vendors who trucked in their goods from both town and country managed nonetheless to offer up an impressive variety of vegetables, jams and jellies, homemade bread and rolls, and even teas and soaps. Some were nearly sold out by 11 a. m., as locals happily scooped up the fresh lettuces, baby beets, and big potatoes.

The Killarney vendors were initially a little reluctant to move away from the shady trees in nearby Erin Park by the lake, but market co-ordinator David Koslowsky said that the Municipality of Killarney-Turtle Mountain had urged the group to shift to a more central location.

“Everybody has mixed feelings,” he said. “We were happy in the park. We have customers near the lake who will miss us, but this will hopefully draw a new demographic of customers from the town. The parking is definitely better here.”

The local mayor said that the council was unanimous in its desire to see the farmers set up on the main street of town.

“We just kind of encouraged them to come downtown,” said Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls. “Rural downtowns are struggling, and the business sections need to be supported. We want to draw the public and the tourists downtown. The business community is our lifeblood. We like the new location.”

Assisted by his young sons Robert and Jessia, Richard Gross of the Mayfair Colony had a full table of green onions, spinach, overwintered parsnips (ready washed and cut), bagged mesclun lettuce leaf mixes, a dozen heads of green cabbage, broccoli florets (also washed and ready to cook), radishes, cauliflower florets, beetroot, and even little bags of new-season, washed and peeled baby carrots.

There was also some golden honey, naturally fermented Hutterite sauerkraut, and a surprising collection of deep-yellow spaghetti squash that had been carefully stored through the winter. “I had 20 bags of 10 pounds of potatoes, the stored red ones,” said. “They were $4 a bag, and we sold out of them.”

Gross said he’s seen a significant increase in interest in farmers’ markets.

“More and more people are coming to the farmers’ markets, and it’s really growing. This is our fourth year, and sales have gone up 25 per cent.”

Tim and Kathleen Freeman sold out early with their loaves of flax bread, and their beautifully laid-out table held more than vegetables such as onions, beets, lettuce and spinach.

They also brought in fresh summer savory and dill, and nicely packaged dried herbs and spices from last year’s garden such as chives and cayenne pepper, nestled in a basket. And there were relishes and marmalade, crocheted scrubbies made from crinoline material, and some wonderful pure soaps made by Kathleen’s sister Susan Penner.

Some of the saponified goods were mounted prettily on little soap dishes, crafted by a local woodworker from Turtle Mountain burr oak.

The Freemans’ farm, Wakopa Sunshine Harvest Farm, relies entirely on draft horse power, and the couple also raises poultry and lamb, and sells wool products.

Teas from around the world, along with everything you need to make the beverage, were paraded on the display table of Susan Lamont. Lamont launched her business, Tea Buds and Blossoms, this past year, and is passionate about teaching people how to enjoy the pleasures of loose-leaf tea.

Dave and Rhonda Koslowsky had a good layout of fresh vegetables – including some of the province’s earliest peppers – but most of it was sold out before the market ended before lunch.

Koslowsky said the number of farmers’ markets in the province has been rising, as both the interest in local and fresh food, and a new respect for growers has flourished.

“We have seen a small increase, not huge, but a steady growth,” said Koslowsky, who is also vice-chair and spokesman for Farmers’ Market Association of Manitoba. “Five years ago we had 27 farmers’ markets, and now there are about 40.”

Next week they expect to have canopies erected for the vendors’ produce, thanks to a $10,000 grant from the Farmers’ Market Enhancement Project, which is receiving $450,000 in support monies from the Western Diversification/ Federal Government of Canada. This grant money is being directed towards every farmers’ market in Manitoba to help improve the sales areas for each one, and to aid customer and vendor comfort and needs.

“We are very excited about the farmers’ market movement,” Koslowsky said. “And about teaching people about what we can grow here, getting people to try new things, and the taste and freshness of food that is usually picked just the day before, or hours before.”

Koslowsky said the market is awaiting the arrival of three park benches, and a long picnic table, so folks can linger longer.

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