Ever Wonder What the Farmers Market Vendors Do During the Winter? Hint: They Don't Get to Hibernate

(Buddy the Pony and his friends - photo by Mike Braucher)

I am a creature of habit and one of the most comforting and delicious of my habits for the last couple summers has been a trip to the Kingfield Farmers Market almost every single Sunday. Sometimes I bring the whole family along and we meander and nosh on mini-donuts, falafel or Thai omelets, running into friends and neighbors at every turn. Sometimes, I go in for a surgical strike – alone with my basket, in and out in fifteen minutes, loaded down with eggs, veggies, salmon, meats and cheeses for the week. By the looks of the mellow shuffling crowds, I am not the only one with a Kingfield Farmers Market habit, and so I am probably not the only one who’s going to be feeling a bit forlorn now that the season has ended.

As I headed over for the last week, I stopped feeling sorry for myself just long enough to wonder: What are all of these vendors going to be doing after the curtains close on the farmers market season? Surely they would have some well-deserved time to relax after such a busy Spring, Summer and Fall. I decided to ask a few of them. Not only do each of their winters look as different as the goods on their tables, relaxing doesn’t seem to be in the cards for any of them.

I’ve gotten to know a bunch of the vendors through writing for Simple Good and Tasty and also simply by virtue of showing up every week - they truly couldn’t be a nicer (or more hardworking) group of folks. I was heartened to discover that I won’t have to wait until next May to see them and get my grubby hands on their delicious foods thanks to some winter markets and pick-up dates. Here’s the skinny . . .

Brauchers Sunshine Harvest Farm

Life at the farm won’t change much for Mike, his wife Colleen, and their son, Brandon, since their days will continue to revolve around caring for the cows, sheep, pigs and chickens as well as doing chores around the farm. Not having to go to markets on the weekend will free up those days to play catch-up. Otherwise, since they continue to process the same number of animals during the winter for their CSA, pick-up dates and restaurant deliveries, it’s business as usual and then some. Colleen, who helps at the markets in the summers and does the book keeping, has a job as an administrative assistant at a small school during the year. This winter she would like to catch up on some sleep and reading and spend more time with her grandkids. Brandon will split his time working at the butcher they use, Odenthal Meats, as well as working at a dairy farm on the weekends. Brandon is looking forward to spending more time with his two daughters and a baby girl due to arrive in December. Congratulations Brandon and Brittany! If he gets a spare moment, Mike would like to catch up on some reading, music, movies, guitar as well as update his webpage and start planning for next year’s market season.  

The Brauchers will be at the Kingfield Holiday Market, the Mill City Holiday Market, and the Mill City Spring Preview Market (details at the end of the article). Their winter pick-up locations and dates can be found here. Pick-up locations are for CSA customers or those who would like to order a la cart via email at least 2 days prior to the delivery date.

Bogart Loves

Anne Rucker is an attorney who took a summer hiatus to bake for the markets. Typically she would test recipes and shop for ingredients at the beginning of the week and then organize, prep and start baking at the end of the week. On market days, she was up at no later than 2:00 a.m. to fry donuts and bake cakes. Obviously, she’ll be catching up on some sleep now that the markets are over. She is looking forward to taking some weekend trips with her husband, spending more time on her beautiful food blog, and will ease into some legal work while she contemplates next steps for Bogart Loves (if any). Please take more steps, Anne! Please! I’m sure you’re a good lawyer but you’re a REALLY good baker! She will be at the Kingfield Holiday Market.

Gai Gai Thai

Most immediately, Kris Petcharawises will be starting a lunch service once a week at Patisserie 46. He is hammering out the details with Chef John Kraus and is grateful to him and his wife Dawn for the opportunity to continue cooking for people. Most likely he will do this on Thursdays and is thinking of offering warm and hearty curries and Bangkok street food influenced noodle dishes. Kris is also working on a meal plan, which would be similar to a CSA where customers would pay a monthly fee for prepared foods to be delivered twice a month. He is considering using the co-ops as drop off sites and is still working on the details, but if you are interested in being put on a mailing list, drop Kris an email at In late fall and winter, Kris will also be teaching monthly cooking classes at the Linden Hills Co-Op. The next class on November 8 focuses on jolk, or Thai rice porridge. Gai Gai Thai is also available for catering and private parties. When he’s not buying food, prepping, cooking and figuring out ways to grow his business, Kris is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Courtney and 2 year old son, Bodhi. Gai Gai Thai will be at the Kingfield Holiday Market.

Sweetland Orchard

Even though all the apples are picked and the cider is made, life doesn’t slow down for Mike Perbix. He spends his time managing the land (cutting down buckthorn, wild plum, hawthorn and rogue apple trees) to keep his orchard healthy. He also has to maintain and repair his equipment which includes lawn mowers, a couple market vehicles, a utility vehicle, chainsaws and the cider press. In February, he starts to prune his trees, which continues until late March or early April. This winter, Mike is looking forward to using the small still he purchased to make apple brandy or cider liqueur. He also plans to experiment with making hard cider to bottle and sell next year. He and his wife, Gretchen, plan to convert a majority of the orchard to hard cider production and ultimately create a farm/winery destination. Mike plans to take up deer hunting, but is mostly looking forward to spending more time with Gretchen and their new baby, Audrey. Mike will be at the Bloomington Winter Market and the Kingfield Holiday Market. He will also be delivering cider, apples and cider donuts through his Twin Cities delivery service detailed here.

Foxy Falafel

Erica Strait's days will continue to be packed with foxiness from start to finish even thought the markets are over for now. In addition to catering and dinner parties, Erica is working on making falafel balls and hummus available to customers at the Linden Hills Co-op in November, adding more co-ops in the future. She is also considering a kombucha CSA where people can refill their kombucha growlers once a week. If you need a Foxy fix this winter, Erica suggests corralling some friends, throwing a party and having her cater it (contact info here). She will also be at the Kingfield Holiday Market, Kitchen in the Market and other special events that might pop up. On her weekends off, Erica is looking forward to catching up with friends, getting back to yoga, lots of brunches, trying out new recipes, blogging, and finally finishing the scarf she started knitting two years (!) ago. Come on, Erica! You can do it! 

Singing Hills Dairy

Much like the folks at Brauchers, life for Lynne Reeck and Kate Wall of Singing Hills Dairy doesn’t change much with the end of the farmers market season. They keep milking “the girls” well into the winter and continue to make cheese with their own milk and also milk from Morgon Allen, who owns a neighboring goat farm. In November, they start the breeding process with their two bucks, which lasts about a month. Every day, the goats are brought into the parlour to feed and get a health check. The girls don’t like snow and being in a windy spot with lots of drift, Lynne and Kate have a lot of snow removal to manage in order for the goats to have some open space to romp. The girls get a break from milking in February and March and in April, the babies start to arrive. Lynne and Kate have a baby monitor on at all times so they can hear when a goat goes into labor and it truly becomes a 24 hour job. They deliver the kids themselves and spend the first month making sure all the mamas and babies are healthy. They try to have all the birthing done by the time the markets start up again in the spring. This winter, Lynne says she is looking forward to doing some snowshoeing, taking some pictures and maybe, just maybe taking a vacation for a week or two. Understandably, the ladies have some trepidation about leaving all their girls. Singing Hills will be at the Kingfield Holiday Market, the Local d’Lish Farmers Markets, and the Mill City Holiday Market. They will also have drop off dates on Saturday November 12 (Kingfield at 43rd and Nicollet at 10-10:30 a.m. and Mill City Museum at 11-11:30 a.m.) Singing Hills Cheeses are also available at the Just Food Co-op in Northfield.

Tiny Planet Produce

Since the last farmers market, Ben and Andrea Hopper have been busy moving off the land they were leasing and farming for the last couple years. After five years total of farming, they are ready to set down permanent roots and are currently looking to buy a piece of land in the St. Croix Falls area since they have enjoyed the community so much. During the winters, Ben works at Trollhaugen Ski Lodge and Andrea is a banquet server. They will not be at any of the winter markets this year because they sold everything they had to sell in anticipation of their big move. In addition to their seasonal jobs, winter will bring some time for cross country skiing and weekly dinner parties with their farming friends, since that doesn't happen enough during peak season. Let's keep our fingers crossed that the Hoppers find a beautiful piece of land to call home for themselves and Tiny Planet Produce so we can see them again come May.

Chef Shack

During market season, Carrie Summer, Lisa Carlson and the rest of the Chef Shack crew are up at the crack of dawn organizing equipment, loading, pre-tripping the trucks, cooking and setting up for lunch. It is a huge production, given that they cook at three markets each weekend from May to October, in addition to all the other special events that come their way. Now that they don't have to wake up at 5 am or earlier, the ladies are looking forward to catching up on sleep, resuming their social lives, getting back to the gym and entertaining. Carrie says their office will be getting an organizational overhaul this winter and they will spend time on "food concept development." They are planning a major trip down south to explore some barbecue and properly research Southern cuisine (hooooweee!). That is just the kind of delicious nugget I need to get me through until my next Chef Shack fix come spring. 

Wild Run Salmon

For Matt Oxford of Wild Run Salmon, the end of farmers market season means he finally gets to unpack his bags from when he moved here from Alaska to sell his salmon last September. In the next weeks he will also get to maintain his freezers and catch up with his kids in a non-salmon way (most of them work with him either fishing or selling at the markets). This winter, Matt will head back to Alaska to get his boat, The Blue OX, in tip top shape for the fishing season. He also consults with various clinics and health providers about the benefits of salmon and does some cooking demonstrations. This year he will go cod fishing in February and March, which I am personally very excited about. The salmon season extends over the summer and after fishing the Upper Cook Inlet, Matt will be back here to sell next September. Be sure to check out Wild Run’s website for a good description of why the flash freezing method works so well for what Matt describes as the last truly wild food on earth. You can find Wild Run Salmon at the Kingfield Holiday Market and the Mill City Holiday Market as well as the Minneapolis Farmers Market on the following dates: December 3, 10, 17, January 7, 21, February 4, 18, March 10, 24 and April 7.

The Details:

The Kingfield Holiday Market is Sunday November 20th from 8:30 am to 1 pm at King Park Center (41st and Nicollet).

The Local D'Lish Market takes place every 3rd Saturday from November through April from 10 am to 2 pm at 208 N 1st Street in Minneapolis.

Kitchen in the Market is a food truck fix with Smack Shack on Sunday December 4th at the Midtown Global Market.

The Mill City Holiday Market takes place on December 10th in the Mill City Museum from 10 am to 2 pm.

The Mill City Spring Preview Market takes place April 8th from 10 am to 2 pm.

The Bloomington Winter Markets are November 12th and December 10th from 9 am to 12 pm at the Bloomington Civic Plaza.

The Minneapolis Farmers Market continues to sell meats, poultry, cheese and eggs on Saturdays from 9:30 am to 12 pm, beginning in December.


Gabriela Lambert is a frequent contributor to Simple, Good and Tasty. You can also read more of her writing on her blog Her last post for SGT was Roasted Tomato Soup For a Fall Supper.