A growing institution
With fall arriving in just a few days, the Rugby Farmers Market is winding down for the season.
But for the sellers and buyers who show up every Wednesday and Saturday enthusiasm is as high as when the season started.
The produce changes every few weeks, “but we always have a good crowd and probably ten or twelve vendors,” said Vernice Brossart, one of this year’s organizers.
This summer has been different from those of the past in that the market is now loosely run by the sellers themselves. Previously the Chamber of Commerce was in charge.
Arlyne Rothschiller has been a supporter since the start, which she thinks was in the mid-1990s, possibly even earlier. “I was on the chamber board then,”she said, “and we started it downtown by the Christmas tree.”
The original idea was to have it in the business district to attract shoppers, but it didn’t work out that way. “It was out of the way, it was hot on that concrete, and there was no parking'” Arlyne said.
She pushed to have the market moved to the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and N.D. Highway 3.
“I thought they could spread out, catch some traffic off the highway,” she said.As a bonus, the chamber tourism and office building is at the intersection, helping to draw a crowd. It took a while for traffic to build, but it proved to be a good move, Arlyne said.
For many years the market operated under the direction of the chamber and was open Saturday mornings only. Vendors were charged for the spaces, and the chamber furnished tables. “I think it was $20 for the season back then, or $2 or $3 per week,” said current chamber executive director, Don Sobolik. Later that was raised to $30 per season.
That structure changed in the summer of 2009 when the chamber decided to let vendors use the space rent free, but furnish their own tables. The number of sellers increased substantially.
In 2008 a Wednesday afternoon market was added and the starting date moved up to mid-July. “At the beginning it was usually at the start of August through the first frost,” Don said. He can remember times when there wasn’t a lot of produce available because of uncooperative weather, but the market persevered.
Sandy Brossart of Barton has been a vendor the last few years. A self-described farmer at heart, she said she always raises a large garden, but her family and friends can eat only so much, and she always has leftovers. When the chamber decided not to spearhead the market this year, Sandy talked to Vernice Brossart, another regular vendor. “Sandy had some raspberries to get rid of,” Vernice said, so in mid-July they hung up a few posters and put a small ad in the newspaper. Response was good right from the start.
“It’s run differently now, and I think that’s why they have more vendors,” said Wanda Nielsen, a long-time shopper. “Plus Vernice Brossart makes the most delicious jams and jellies,” she added enthusiastically.n
Many vendors have come and gone over the years. Lois Dumdai of Knox sold garden produce and home-canned goods for about six years, and her dill pickles and bread and butter pickles were always in big demand. This year she didn’t plant a garden so pickle lovers will have to put their taste buds on hold until another year. She is hoping to be back gardening next summer.
Ed and Elaine Selensky of Rugby have had a booth the last few years. Ed’s produce–tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, cucumbers, squash and pumpkins pair nicely with Elaine’s baked goods–white and wheat buns, caramel rolls and specialty breads. “We’ve been here pretty well every Wednesday and every Saturday this year,” Elaine said. The Selenskys have two gardens, one in Rugby and one at their farm, and are able to accomodate even large orders. “A woman from Cando is coming for a bushel of tomatoes on Wednesday,” Elaine noted.
Towner’s Arnold Larson started selling at the market last year. He doesn’t have a large garden but sells a good variety including tomatoes and cukes. “No more potatoes, though,” he said, having sold his entire crop by the end of August.
“I start my tomatoes from seed on Valentine’s Day,” he said. By the time he sets them out in the spring they are nearly two feet tall. This past spring was ideal, he believes. “I only covered them one time this year. Last year I was covering, covering, covering.” He fertilizes twice a season, but doesn’t use other chemicals. “I don’t think you should spray for pests,” he says. “I wouldn’t chance it.”
According to Arnold, vendors set their own prices, but they are pretty similar from booth to booth. Early in the season he sold both tomatoes and cukes for $1 a pound, but last week reduced them to 75 cents and 50 cents respectively. It’s the end of the year for him and he just wants to get rid of his veggies.
A familiar face at every Saturday market is that of Marilyn Slaubaugh of Wolford. She sells some garden produce, but shoppers really go for her baked goods including breads, buns, pies, cookies and rolls. “The pies and bread sell well,” she said. “Last Saturday I sold 20 big pies and 20 small pies.”She usually doesn’t sell on Wednesdays. “For me, I don’t have the customer traffic on Wednesday. It’s different traffic. I sell Pennsylvania peaches, and I’ll sell them on Wednesdays, with just a few baked goods.” The extra sweet peaches are raised in Wisconsin and delivered to Marilyn by friends.
Leroy Leer of Wolford was one of the early-day vendors at the market. “I was farming full-time with dairy,” he said, “then I had a stroke. I liked gardening, so I started gardening. I could tinker around out there (in his garden) and it was good physical exercise for me. I got a book from Bismarck about raising a lot of vegetables in a small area,” he added. “I put a drip water system in and raised potatoes, peppers, cukes, Walla Walla onions, red beets, cantaloupe, squash. I sold gladiolas for 75 cents each, and they sold well. For the work we put into it, we didn’t get rich,” Leroy said with a laugh, “but it really helped me out physically.” When Leer suffered a second stroke two years ago, he stopped gardening.
The upcoming change of season will barely register with some vendors. Retired carpenter, Simon Sattler, of Knox plans to stick it out right into fall. This year he added items he crafts from wood to the garden produce he sells. And some of his produce just isn’t ready to go yet. “I’ve got muskmelons in my garden that are just beautiful.” he said. “After it freezes I’ll have lots of apples. I’ll be one of the last ones out here.”
That’s music to the ears of Arlyne Rothschiller. “I can see it spreading out like a big-city farmers market,” she said, “with crafts, flowers, canned goods.”
That dream may be a few years down the road, but with the increased demand for locally grown food, the Rugby farmers market looks like a fixture that won’t disappear any time soon.
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