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Farmer markets offering variety of produce, products

George Hede, a member of the Bemidji Area Farmers Market, has two gardens behind his house in Nymore and two larger gardens across the street. He also built a 12-foot-by-55-foot high-tunnel greenhouse last year to expand his production. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI - The early spring means an early opening for the Natural Choice Farmers Market, which opened May 12 for the early season in the Union Square parking lot.

"We've had people happy to have us open again already," said Gail Rixen, former secretary and founding member of the Natural Choice Farmers Market. "It's been really pleasant to have people come."

The city's other farmer's market, the Bemidji Area Farmers Market, will begin selling its wares this weekend. That market, which just recently obtained 501c3 status, will have a one-day event Sunday in the parking lot of the former Pamida store.

Loralee Nennich, secretary for the Bemidji Area Farmers Market, said the group has now received word from ShopKo Inc., the parent company of Pamida stores, that the farmer's market will be allowed to operate in its same location. Pamida closed in late February, and ShopKo purchased the chain about the same time.

This Sunday's sale, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will offer asparagus and rhubarb, plants, honey, goat's milk soap and other items such as baked goods.

Nennich said the sale will kick off the season and let people see that the farmer's market again will operate in the Pamida parking lot.

The Natural Choice Farmers Market will continue its weekly sales 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

Offerings include a variety of produce, including limited quantities of lettuce, spinach, cabbage, radishes, asparagus, green onions, zucchini, rhubarb, turnips, lettuce and kale, plants, bison meat, pickled goods, and a range of breads. There also will be baked goods and crafts.

Rixen said market members are pleased to have their high-tunnels, or hoophouses, unheated greenhouses, producing produce.

"We've been getting the early green stuff a month or two earlier than usual," she said.

Nennich, with the Bemidji Area market, said the growing season is, so far, going pretty well.

"We've been lacking a little in rain," she said, adding her business is fortunate to have irrigation.

Nothing has been planted in the fields yet, she said, but she does have baseball-sized tomatoes and peppers on the plants in the high-tunnels.

"It's getting kind of exciting," she said.

Rixen said the number of vendors selling for the Natural Choice Farmers Market will change throughout the season as some work hard to get an early start to the season and others come in later.

This year, the membership is higher, she said, as new members have joined.

"We have new faces, new products too," she said. "It seems like everyone has some new and different products. It's kind of interesting to see what people have."