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Published: Monday, 6/9/2008

Food, sociable folks at farmers markets

There s something about farmers markets that brings out the sociability in folks. Customers take time to talk; vendors take time to answer questions.

On any given market day, the products will vary and the vendors may change, but customers know that there will be plenty of produce and food to choose from. Early in the season there are flowers, plants, and vegetable plants for sale as well.

Two weeks ago, I visited the Westgate Farmers Market at the Elder-Beerman parking lot on Secor Road. I started out by tasting a mini slice of cinnamon bread from Country Grains Bread Co. Baker Kyle Ehrechke explained the sweet cinnamon-flavored bread was made with butter, egg, cinnamon, maple syrup, and white sugar. Another variety is Grains Galore bread, which has flaxseed. Plus there were muffins such as Pistachio, Orange Pineapple, and Lemon Poppyseed.

Next to the bread table was Mel and Norm Holtz s pick-up truck and table. The brothers, who farm in Ida, also sell their produce and free-range eggs at the famed Eastern Market in Detroit. But you don t have to drive to Detroit; you can get some of the same products on Wednesdays at Westgate between 3 and 7 p.m.

Then I stopped at the Glen Carpenter/Goodfellow Farms table of Ida, Mich., to look at their produce. Next, it was on to Karen Anne s Kettle Corn. Fresh popped corn is made in a shining copper kettle. Max and Karen Anne Freytag take their equipment and food products to the Toledo Farmers Market and Perryburg Farmers Market, too.

Also at the market was Dan Madigan, director of the Toledo Farmers Market, which sponsors the Westgate site. We have 62 vendors this year, he said about the Toledo Farmers Market. The winter market showed our vendors they can stretch the season. Last year we were up to 22 vendors at Westgate. We also do the Waterville Market on Tuesdays from 4 to 7 p.m.

This inspired me to visit more farmers markets. So at 4 p.m. on Thursday I attended the Perrysburg Farmers Market on Louisiana Avenue. The first booth I saw was Karen Anne s Kettle Corn. They sure do move around. But the copper kettle was just as sparkling as the day before.

I stopped to talk to Gary Ackerman of Ackerman Berry Farm in Oregon. He had little cheesecakes and coffee cakes made by his wife, Carolyn. But he was really selling the raspberry puree and sauces. The first of July, he expects to be picking black raspberries, which he ll bring to the market to sell. The season lasts two weeks. At the end of August, expect a second crop of red raspberries and black raspberries.

Next to him was Diane Rogers of Syd & Diane s with her classic oils, vinaigrettes, dips, and now quiche. She also has a booth at the Toledo Farmers Market, which was open through the winter with great success. The Toledo Farmers Market was over-the-top great, she says. All the booths were full over Memorial Day.

I meandered down to Garden View Farm of Grand Rapids where I admired the rhubarb, lettuce, asparagus, and radishes that Jenny Van Houtte was selling.

Laurie Rice of the Perrsyburg Convention & Visitors Bureau was in the crowd, supporting the market with her purchases. I also admired the spinach, Swiss chard, and white and red radishes at the booth of the Andy Keil Greenhouse in Swanton.

Winding my way back, I stopped to talk to Marlene Danko of Berry Goods as she was dipping huge fresh strawberries in chocolate. She had a large assortment of fresh baked pies, cookies, dipped pretzels, and Hungarian pastries.

I also stopped at Debhouse, which had cookies, and the Luginbill Family Farm of Pandora, which sells grass- fed beef, pastured pork, free-range eggs, turkeys, and broilers, and grass-fed lamb.

There s a farmers market in just about any county in northwest Ohio. For more information about area farmers markets, call Louise Mikesell Wireman at the Center for Innovative Food Technology at 419-534-3710, extension 112.

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