Elk River market’s 2019 season begins
by Joni Astrup
A new season will unfold Thursday, June 6, when the Elk River Farmers Market opens for the summer with food, entertainment, special events and a full slate of vendors.
All 41 vendor stalls are full, according to Karen Wingard, who coordinates the market for the city of Elk River. Among the products those vendors will be selling this season are bedding plants, flowers, herbs, produce, cheese, kettle corn, lemonade, caramel apples, bread, coffee, pretzels, mushrooms, cookies, jam, hot sauce, eggs, cupcakes, meat, maple syrup, honey, soap, furniture, handmade pottery, bird houses, and metal art pieces.
One of the returning vendors is K and B Gardens, a business started by Karen and Barry Brooks 25 years ago. They grow flowers and vegetables in eight greenhouses and on eight acres of land in Elk River. In addition to the Elk River Farmers Market, they also sell their products at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.
Barry is no stranger to the business, as he grew up on an 80-acre vegetable farm and greenhouse operation in Brooklyn Park.
“She (Karen) was an Army brat. We met at a computer maintenance company that we both worked for,” Barry said.
Karen always wanted to get into the greenhouse business, so Barry left his computer job after 15 years so they could launch K and B Gardens in 1995.
“It was actually a nice change to get out of the corporate world and do your own thing,” he said.
He said their business is a lot of work, but it’s rewarding.
“It’s fun to watch something grow and make a nice product. And, people are happy to get it,” he said.
They sell their flowering plants during the early weeks of the farmers market, followed by vegetables when they begin maturing in July.
Tomatoes are some of their best sellers, including beefsteak and San Marzano. They also grow 15 varieties of peppers. Salsa making is popular with farmers market customers, and people come to the market to get fresh tomatoes and peppers — hot peppers in particular.
Colored cauliflower in shades like purple and orange is also a big hit at the farmers market, Barry said.
K and B Gardens is also known for its dahlias the size of dinner plates. Hanging baskets of flowers as well as geraniums and begonias are other big sellers.
Barry said they sell about 35,000 annuals in 4-1/2-inch pots each season.
Over the years, he’s noticed the popularity of farmers markets is growing.
“I think it’s a health kick,” he said. “With all the cancer and diseases in the world, people try to eat healthier. You can’t get healthier food than at a farmers market.”
Opening day special events
The Elk River Farmers Market will run from 3 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, June 6 through Oct. 3 (no market on July 4) at Park Plaza Main Street in downtown Elk River.
Opening day, June 6, will be Senior Day at the market featuring Popcorn with Public Safety. Seniors will have a chance to visit with local police officers and firefighters from 3 to 5 p.m. while enjoying a snack of Blue Starr Kettle Corn. Live music will be provided by Sunny VanBrocklin.
June 6 will also be Environmental Day at the market from 3 to 5 p.m., featuring reuse ideas and free reusable bags while supplies last.
Additionally, the June 6 market will pay tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day. World War II pilot and veteran Hartley Story, 93, of Elk River, will be at the market from 3 to 5 p.m. that day as a special guest.
“It will be the place to be,” Wingard said.
Here’s more about the Elk River Farmers Market, according to Wingard.
•The first Thursday of the month is Senior Day sponsored by Guardian Angels Senior Services and Elk River Senior Living. Seniors will receive $3 in market cash to spend at the market. Stop by the city table to pick it up.
•The second Thursday of the month is Kids Day at the market featuring special programs and events. The Elk River Library will be at the market on Kids Day from 3 to 5 p.m. with games and books and Elk River Lutheran Church will provide a bounce house at the church property across the street from the market. Sherburne County 4-H will also be on hand.
•There will be live music at the market each week sponsored by State Farm Kevin Gleitz.
•Master gardeners will be at the market each week.
•New this year, the Sherburne Soil and Water Conservation District will offer free nitrate water testing at the farmers market on June 13 and Aug. 8. To collect a sample, run cold tap water for one minute and collect one cup in a plastic baggie or glass jar. For more information, call 763-220-3434.
•A Frequent Shopper Reward Program is available for people ages 13 and up. Visit the market six times and get a voucher for $5 to spend at the market. Sign up at the city table.
•July 11 through Aug. 29, the Power of Produce Program for kids ages 3-12 provides them with a $2 token to spend on fruits and vegetables. Health Partners and Three Rivers Orthodontics are the sponsors. Two additional sponsors are needed to extend the program length.
•Credit cards, EBT and farmers market nutrition vouchers will be accepted at the market. The market also participates in the Market Bucks program, in which Hunger Solutions matches up to $10 in purchases for participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Elk River Farmers Market schedule
June 6: Senior Day at the market with Popcorn with Public Safety from 3 to 5 p.m. Guardian Angels is the sponsor table. Music by Sunny VanBrocklin. Also Environmental Day at the market featuring reuse ideas and reusable bags, and a tribute to the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
June 13: Kids Day at the market. Elk River Library at the market 3-5 p.m. Sherburne County 4-H will be on hand. Nitrate water testing. Music by Ron Dropik. Elk River Lutheran Church is at the community table.
June 20: Music by MoeDell.
June 27: Music by Cathie English. Elk River Downtown Business Association is at the community table.
July 11: Kids Day at the market. Elk River Library at the market 3-5 p.m. Also Environmental Day at the market featuring Kids Recycle. Music by Ron Dropik. United Methodist Church is at the community table.
July 18: Music by Steven Schmidt.
July 25: Music by Mark Grim.
Aug. 1: Senior Day at the market. Music by Ron Dropik, Elk River Senior Living is the sponsor table.
Aug. 9: Kids Day. Popsicles with Public Safety, 3 to 5 p.m. Sherburne County 4-H will be on hand. Elk River Library at the market from 3 to 5 p.m. Nitrate water testing. Music by MoeDell.
Aug. 15: Music by Steven Schmidt.
Aug. 22: Music by Cathie English.
Aug. 29: Music by Tim Fast.
Sept. 5: Senior Day. Guardian Angels is the sponsor table. Music by The Gallery Trio and Barbara Moon.
Sept. 12: Kids Day. Elk River Library at the market from 3 to 5 p.m. Sherburne County 4-H will be on hand. Music by MoeDell.
Sept. 19: Music by Sunny VanBrocklin. Environmental Day with an electric vehicle on display. Adults Catering to Theatre, a booster club for parents of drama students, is at the community table.
Sept. 26: Music by The Gallery Trio and Barbara Moon.
Oct. 3: Senior Day at the market. Music by Tim Fast. Elk River Senior Living is the sponsor table.