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Farmers' market looking for new vendors

North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Kenmare has been a staple in the downtown square for at least 11 years.

4/05/16 (Tue)

Longtime vendors... Darlene Thompson, and her husband Curtis, set up their booth at North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Minot. Thompson, a longtime vendor at NPFM in Kenmare, says she’s had much better luck selling her baked goods in Kenmare than in either Minot or Mohall. 

By Marvin Baker

North Prairie Farmers’ Market in Kenmare has been a staple in the downtown square for at least 11 years.

It’s much like any other farmers’ market where you can get garden produce, baked goods, honey and the list goes on.

But there is one thing lacking, vendors. For the past two years, the market has remained open with two and sometimes only one vendor.

The Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture at Dakota College in Bottineau would like to see that change.

This year the ECH is offering grants of $300 to any first- or second-year vendor to use as they wish.

Holly Mawby, the executive director of ECH said the application process is very simple, there’s money available on a first come first serve basis and additional vendors can bolster any market.

“The only follow through is that they have to send us receipts of what they have purchased and pictures,” Mawby said. “If they do a banner or a sign, they have to use our Dakota Grown logo, which is provided.”

In addition, Mawby said the grant is designed to get vendors up and running at their local farmer’s market.

“They can use it for scales, totes, boxes, tables or canopies,” Mawby said. “Whatever will help them sell products at their market.”

Mawby added the money won’t last forever, so if someone is thinking about joining the market in Kenmare, they should do it soon because the grants will be provided to new vendors all across the state of North Dakota.

Grant applications are available on the North Dakota Farmers’ Market and Growers Association website under the menu item resources, then grants.

For more information about the grants, call 228-5649 or 720-2635. For those who may not have computer access, grant applications will be available at The Kenmare News office.

Kenmare market manager Al Scherbenske said he would certainly welcome new vendors to the Kenmare market which is held in the downtown square on Thursday afternoons from late July until early October.

“I certainly want to see new vendors here,” Scherbenske said. “I’ve always said the more vendors you have, the more successful the market will be.”

Scherbenske said the market was down to three vendors last year so it’s obvious the ECH is trying to help by offering the $300 grants.

He said there are a number of different items a person can vend at the farmers’ market and it doesn’t have to be limited to garden produce.

“Years ago there was someone who had small wood products,” Scherbenske said. “We had a gal who served Indian tacos and she got electricity from the (Danish) mill. She had a pretty successful business. As I remember it, she was raising money for a mission trip. She always had a line of people.”

Locally grown cut flowers have also become a draw at numerous farmers’ markets.

But, as Scherbenske pointed out, the biggest draw has always been Darlene Thompson’s donuts.

Thompson, a Carpio resident, brought donuts, caramel rolls and other baked goods to Kenmare each week.

She didn’t attend market in 2015 because of a back injury and will no longer be able to sell at the market because of her injury.

“If I could walk and carry something, I’d certainly be back,” Thompson said. “I never quit Kenmare. I went to Minot and a few times to Mohall, but I was always in Kenmare.”

And, as Scherbenske pointed out, her best seller was her donuts. But she also brought buns, cookies, pickles, jelly and banana bread.

She was making money going to two and three markets, but she came to realize she had to start slowing down.

“I had to make up my mind where I really wanted to go,” Thompson said. “It was too much work to do two and three markets. Even though it was really good money, I just couldn’t do two or three markets.”

She narrowed it down to Kenmare because of convenience and because she had built some solid relationships with her customers in the downtown square.

“The market in Kenmare was the best market where I’ve been,” Thompson said. “They were there waiting for me when I was setting up. There’s no doubt, it was better than Mohall or Minot for me. I loved it when I went to Kenmare because I could also do some shopping.”

As an example, she would sometimes go into the grocery stores and purchase a 40-pound box of bananas for her next batch of banana bread. She also made other purchases around town.

Thompson offered her advice to those who may be thinking of becoming first-time vendors.

She said you have to be willing to work hard because if the customers know you are genuine, they’ll buy and you’ll succeed.

Thompson has sold as much as 16 dozen loaves of banana bread and 24 dozen donuts in one day in Kenmare.

“I made soup for a while that I made daily,” she said. “I remember a lady bought one jar of soup. The next week I brought six and she bought them all and said she wanted another six. So I brought 12 and sold them all. That’s how this works.”

A vendor in Kenmare since 2005, Thompson said the $300 grant is a great way for someone to get started in this business. She wished that money was available when she started her vending in Kenmare in August 2005.

According to Thompson, she has seen vendors in Kenmare with nothing more than potatoes, corn, peas or pumpkins.

“I don’t remember who she was, but this corn lady would come in with a pickup load and sold it all because nobody else had corn,” she said. “Some sell just certain things, so if you are willing work at it, you can make money.”

Thompson misses seeing her customers and all the relationships she’s built up over the past 10 years.

She said anyone else could do the same and pick up where she left off.

“People stand there waiting for you to set up,” she said. “Some put their hands on stuff and want to buy it before the market opens. It was mostly donuts. Oh, I sold a lot of donuts.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!