Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Join and grow the movement...

Posted 3/03/20 (Tue)

Even though winter likes to hang on into April, many of us were reminded last weekend in Mandan that spring is just around the corner.

The North Dakota Farmers Market & Growers Association held its annual convention in the Baymont in Mandan, in conjunction with the North Dakota Grape & Wine Association convention.

Several years ago the farmers market folks gave up the traditional Friday night banquet and went with the wine growers. It adds a whole new dimension to growing grapes and what to do with them when they are ripe.

This convention is held late every winter and it seems to coincide with a time when most of us are getting tired of being indoors.

Attendance has been dropping off in recent years and nobody seems to be able to figure out why.

The one given is that we don’t have enough vendors in North Dakota for the amount of consumer demand that keeps increasing.

State ag deparment local foods guru Jamie Good has really done a good job of lining up the right people to be keynote speakers, to sit on panel discussions, to mingle in the crowd and sometimes a comedy act or two will show up.

Another big plus for this convention is the food. Several years ago the Sysco and Food Services of America template was shattered in favor of having meals at these conventions with food the people attending actually grew.

Believe it or not, there are a number of hotels in North Dakota that won’t allow that to happen. It’s unfortunate, but for those that do, they are the hotels that are going to keep getting the business of this group because local foods are certainly popular at a local foods convention, that’s for sure.

One of the things that farmers market leadership sometimes seems to overlook is the visiting that goes on during the convention.

Sure, there is a tight schedule to keep everybody occupied, but some attendees just like to visit with like minded people to help them better understand themselves and what they are doing.

That camaraderie is important to a lot of people and it shows, especially during those local foods meals because you’ll see a group of people at one table and the next time it’s a completely different group.

One gardener who attended is now 96 years old. He has been farming and gardening in Emmons County for as long as he can remember and remains active in farmers markets. He and his wife attend the Capital Farmers Market in Bismarck.

A family of Slovakian immigrants joined the association several years ago and attend the convention every year.

They operate gardens and a cafe in Anamoose and like to do things in a traditional manner. They are the nicest people and make the best borscht you can imagine.

Sometimes the convention will get some real heavy hitters like Stuart Tracy, the head chef at Pirogue Grille in downtown Bismarck.

Tracy and his wife Cheryl operate this five-star restaurant using local foods as much of the year as possible.

Tracy, who has been a chef on ships and at vacation resorts, has a clever way of turning something as simple as a cucumber into a delicacy.

And, he is kind enough to convey a lot of that information on to the attendees of the convention.

It really is a fantastic event and anybody on the street should consider attending. Some people absolutely refuse to go and those are usually the people who aren’t succeeding in the truck farming business. On the flip side, people attended from Minnesota, Manitoba, South Dakota and Iowa.

There’s no question, farmers market vendors are needed all over the state of North Dakota. That becomes more evident every year because the consumer demand just keeps getting stronger.

Here are some examples of what I mean. One vendor sold 72 pounds of shell peas in a half hour at $6 a pound. Another sold $96 worth of garlic to a single customer for four consecutive weeks.

Still another, was selling 50-pound bags of onions like they were going out of style.

Oh, and I forgot to mention, these examples are from just one of the 56 member markets in North Dakota.

If you are retired, a college student, a high school FFA group or an individual who wants to earn some extra money, it would behoove you to take a closer look at the North Dakota Farmers Market & Growers Association.

You can do that by logging on to ( You’ll be glad you did.