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Crawford County farmers markets offer vegetables and more
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ALYCE SALMON, a true matriarch of the Crawford County Farmers Market scene, is pictured here with her wares for sale at the weekly farmers market in Gays Mills. Every Wednesday, from mid-May through the end of Octo-ber, from 2 to 6 p.m., in the Lions Park in Gays Mills, you can find fresh, organic and sustainably grown produce, honey, bed-ding plants, goat milk prod-ucts, and more.

CRAWFORD COUNTY - Some people are known to say that “food just doesn’t taste the same any more.” Most people will stick a few tomato plants in the ground or in a pot, because no tomato tastes as good as the one plucked right off the vine, plump, red and juicy.

The reality is that a lot of modern, commercial fruit and vegetable varieties are bred not so much for flavor as for holding up well through harvest, distribution and sale, while maintaining their look and commercial value.

That’s why folks in Crawford County are so lucky to have so many options to obtain fresh, seasonal produce picked at the peak of ripeness, flavor and nutritional value.

The county is home to three farmers markets, held weekly in Prairie du Chien, Gays Mills and Ferryville.

 “The three farmers markets in Crawford County were all operating on a smaller scale in the early 2000s, but then in 2014, we joined together, working with Crawford Economic Development, to obtain a USDA-AMS grant, which allowed the markets to hire coordinators, purchase equipment which allowed debit card payments, and advertise,” according to Sherry Quamme from the Village of Ferryville.

 ‘Lady Alyce’

Alyce Salmon is a familiar face at all the farmers markets in the county, though she now only goes to the Gays Mills and Prairie du Chien markets, and then one in Waukon, Iowa.

Passersby on Highway 27 between Fairview and Mt. Sterling are delighted with the view of her beautiful and bountiful flower gardens on display right next to the highway at ‘Alyce’s Acres.’

Among her coveted and well-nurtured collection of perennial flowers is a particularly beautiful variety of Asiatic Lily that is a creamy white, with an orange and gold center. Alyce’s sister bought it for her because the variety is called ‘Lady Alice.’

Salmon spent many years working at Hillcrest Orchard where she started as an apple picker. Eventually, she was promoted into management and ran their retail sales room. She was also responsible for growing the orchard’s large vegetable garden. As a result, Hillcrest Orchard is known not only for their fine apples, but also a selection of vegetables throughout the growing season, and pumpkins and gourds in the fall.

Salmon is still going strong at the age of 74, cultivating a large vegetable and flower garden, raising chickens and eggs, and attending three farmers markets each week. Most recently, she was busy preparing her entries for the Crawford County Fair.

Salmon has suffered some health problems lately, battling successfully with Lymphoma Cancer, but she doesn’t seem to let that slow her down.

“I do what I can, and I don’t dwell on it,” Salmon said.

In her gardens and her production kitchen, Salmon produces fresh vegetables and fruits, including cold-hardy kiwis, jams, jellies, pickles and sauces. These are the wares she brings to market each week.

Gays Mills Market

Every Wednesday, from mid-May through the end of October, from 2 to 6 p.m., in the Lion’s Park in Gays Mills, you can find fresh, organic and sustainably grown produce, honey, bedding plants, goat milk products, and more.

Besides the eight regular weekly vendors, the market has other vendors that come for a day or more during the season.  Some bring handmade crafts, like bird-houses and feeders, and other items.

At a recent market, the vendors sold out of sweet corn, dill, and some tomatoes.  Zucchini, cucumbers, pickles and summer squash are available, and sweet corn and tomatoes for as long as they last. 

"We are having a very good summer at the Gays Mills Farmers Market this year.  All the veggies, berries and fruits in season have been not only beautiful to look at, but delicious to taste. We try to offer new recipes each week using the produce for sale,” market coordinator Barb Schroeder explained. “For example recently we served samples of Cucumber/Lemon/Mint Infused Water, as well as refrigerated cucumbers.”

Schroeder shared that the market has a hospitality table each Wednesday, which offers customers an opportunity to have a taste of a new item as well as a cold drink or coffee to go, free of charge. They also offer a free raffle each month. The next raffle winner will be pulled on September 6.

“We strongly encourage all Crawford County Food Pantry participants to bring their $5 coupons to our market and shop for tasty nutritious food,” Schroeder said. “Our market also accepts Charge/Debit cards, SNAP cards, and the WIC program.”

Gays Mills vendors

HighLander Ridge Organics, a farm operated by Ramon Cram and Therese Lechnir in rural Soldiers Grove, supplies canned pickles, salsa, hot salsa, kale, chard, lettuce, basil, garlic, tomatoes and greenhouse-raised mushrooms every week, as well as delicious BBQ sauces.  

Bob Jelinek, who is also the Market Manager for the Ferryville market on Saturdays brings maple syrup, black walnuts, seasonal veggies and handmade gourd art. 

Mary Ann Jones, Nuts and Berries Hobby Farm from Gays Mills always has fresh eggs, homemade noodles, her own honey, and baked goods, especially gourmet breads. 

Alyce's Acres in rural Ferryville has seasonal produce, canned  items, and fresh eggs. She vends at both the Gays Mills and Prairie Street Farmers Markets.

Larry Wilson of Richard’s Orchard from Gays Mills has his own apple cider vinegar, pecans from his brother’s farm out west, plus sweet corn, tomatoes, beets, young potatoes, radishes, and other veggies as they come in season.  His wife, Mary Padilla, does tole painting and other crafts, which are also available at his booth. He also vends at the markets in Prairie du Chien and Ferryville.

A brand new grower to the market is Chelsea Stankovich from Boma Ridge Organics, who started small with young plants and herbs, and is now selling herbs, garlic, peppers, and other veggies in season.   She also has homemade soaps and scrubs. Stankovich also vends at the Ferryville Farmers Market.

Another new vendor is Mrs. Perry Yoder from Gays Mills, an Amish gardener, baker and cook.  She offers jams and jellies and baked goods, goat milk soaps, and produce as it is available.

The artist/crafter who joined the market this year is Christa Baumeister of Christa's Creations from Gays Mills.  Her creations include painted plaques, barn board paintings as well as driftwood creations, recycled small tables, mirrors, trays, and shelves. Some weeks, she brings fresh produce from her own family garden, such as beets or lettuce.

Ferryville Market

The Ferryville Farmers Market is open for business every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., May 21 through October 29, in the Sugar Creek Park, just south of Ferryville along Highway 35.

The market offers fresh produce, baked goods, jams, jellies, preserves, craft items, woodcrafts, and Amish craft items like a large selection of hand-made baskets and quilts.

You will find crafters selling unique yard ornaments, maple syrup, nuts, fresh horseradish, unique jewelry artists, plants, flowers and more. You will also find vendors selling tools and fishing/hunting gear.

 At the market coordinator stand, attendees can help themselves to a complimentary cup of Kickapoo Coffee Driftless Morning brew as well. Not only that, but you can enter a raffle ($1 or 6 for $5) to win a handmade quilt, baskets, and “surprise baskets.”

New for the 2017 season, the Ferryville Farmers Market now offers an option called the ‘Absent Vendor Program,’ where a vendor who can’t make it to the market can deliver their produce and the market will sell it for them.

Ferryville vendors

The Ferryville Farmers Market has nine regular weekly vendors, and then occasional drop ins, especially when there is a larger event happening in the village such as Bluff Daze or the upcoming Fall Fest.

Eli Zook Family from rural Viroqua offers baked goods, handmade baskets, soaps, throw rugs, toys and more.

Paul Goeden sells antiques and collectibles, and has been in the business of buying and selling antiques for many years.

Chelsea Stankovich of Boma Ridge Organics reports she “grows a little of everything,” including fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Richard's Orchard, Larry Wilson, of Gays Mills sells apples, pecans and produce. All fruits, nuts & produce are grown using organic methods.

Skip Meiners of Mighty Pine Acres, Eitzen, Minn., sells veggies and crafts. His specialty is beautifully finished pine boards, with electric patterns made in the wood by running 9,000 volts of electricity through them. He also makes tool and tackle boxes.

Hurda’s Kountry Krafts of Wauzeka sells yard ornaments, birdbaths and birdhouses, quilts, produce, jams and greeting cards.

Kalina’s Shop sells an eclectic assortment of vintage jewelry, purses and knives, and also offers a knife sharpening service for $3 per blade.

Katrina Owen sells tulle wreathes, and also offers autism awareness materials at her booth. Katrina’s son suffers with autism, and her other son urged his mother to do something to promote awareness of this challenging condition.

Barb and Harold Schroeder, who attended the market with their Dachsund ‘Daisy,’ sell produce, books and curios made out of recycled items.

An occasional vendor is Bob Tumi. Tumi and his wife Charlene raise llamas and sheep, which many travellers may have seen along the side of County C on their way to Ferryville. Charlene spins and weaves, and they harvest and sell their wool.

Ferryville Fall Fest

Ferryville Fall Fest will take place Saturday, Sept. 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be music from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. by the Dawg House Garage Band, described as “music for toe tapping and good times.”

The market expects 20 or more vendors that day, selling a variety of seasonal produce.  There will be photographic artists, lawn ornaments, birdbaths, birdhouses, garden benches, quilts, greeting cards, baked breads, candies, cinnamon rolls, and Amish quilts, baskets, and jams and jellies.

Prairie Street Market

Prairie Street Farmers Market (PSFM) in Prairie du Chien is open Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., May 7 through October 15. It takes place in Lucky Park, 312 Blackhawk Avenue.

The market offers locally grown, seasonal fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs, locally produced meats, cheeses, eggs, cider, maple syrup, and honey, along with jams, jellies and pickles.

Like the Gays Mills and Ferryville Farmers Markets, the Prairie Street Farmers Market also offers complimentary coffee. Not only that, but they also have live music entertainment at each market from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. by such local talent as Monty Berger, Mark Armstrong and Kristin Eggen.

Mark Armstrong is a musician who has been playing at Farmer's Markets in the tri-state area for the last three years. 

“There are several things that I love about the Prairie Market,” says Armstrong.  “First, the vendors and customers are terrific. They are always friendly and have time to stop and say hello. It's a casual environment, and I feel that I have time to  try out new songs, or to play a few originals. A tent is always provided which helps in the blazing sun or the drizzly mornings. I also love the way that they pay their musicians. Most markets simply write a check, which is great, but Prairie pays in goods. At the end of my gig, each vendor kicks in a little something.”

Prairie Street vendors

The Local Oven Bakery’s Rhonda Cerven, brings bakery such as breads, donuts and sweet rolls, and other local items, to compliment the market. They also offer organic local syrup, local honey, local BBQ sauce and other local items.

 “Buying local from your neighbors is a great way to go.  You get fresh items and they keep working the land and doing what they enjoy,” said Cerven.

Alyce's Acres in rural Ferryville has seasonal produce, canned items, and fresh eggs. She vends at both the Gays Mills and Prairie Street Farmers Markets.

Richard's Orchard, Larry Wilson, of Gays Mills sells apples, pecans and produce. All fruits, nuts & produce are grown using organic methods.

Kathy Moczulewski has been a vendor at PSFM for three years. They use part of their land to grow fruits and heirloom vegetables using organic methods.

They sell their produce fresh, canned, and as jams and jellies, and specialize in tomato and pepper varieties that you wouldn’t normally see in the supermarket. They have heirloom houseplants for sale on and off throughout the season, and heirloom vegetable seedlings for sale during the month of May.  They also have handmade Castile soap and handmade blankets, throws, and even Christmas tree skirts for sale.

Terry & Luba Nagel of Wauzeka sell homegrown vegetables, herbs, canned goods, whole frozen chicken, eggs, and homemade knitted sweaters.

Head 2 Toe, Jeani Heisz of Fennimore sells natural alternative therapeutic blends made with pure essential oils, and teas.

Moonshadows LLC, Cheryl and Dan Frazier of Eastman, sells Rhubarb/Strawberry, Nanking Cherry, and Chokecherry Jam, Apple and Peach Butters, Senfgherken Pickles, Spicy Pickle Relish, Spicy Bread & Butter Pickles, Radish Relish, and Corn Relish. They also sell Serrano and  Habanero Salsa, fresh veggies in season, and terrariums, which Frazier sees as a “good way to recycle old glass jars.”

R N R Ranch, Tad and Tonya Rebhahn, of DeSoto sell homegrown vegetables, herbs, beef, pigs, and handcrafted all-natural soaps.