By Jennie Zeitler,
With their gardens overflowing with a bounty of vegetables of every sort, Allan and Leah Ahrens looked for a local farmers market where they could share their abundance with others. Not finding any in Sauk Centre, they started selling produce off their front lawn on Highway 71 north of the river in Sauk Centre.
“People asked us about a farmers market,” said Leah, “but we had to say we couldn’t find one.”
There used to be one in the Legion parking lot that moved to Gerard’s a couple years ago. The last year a fully active market was held in Sauk Centre was in 2010.
The Ahrenses are now manning a farmers market table at the Gerard’s parking lot on Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
“The Amish have been selling their items there steadily all summer,” said Leah. “They offer baskets, fruit pies and baked goods.”
Now, area residents can find a wealth of produce as well.
Although they haven’t sold their produce previously, both Allan and Leah come by their prolific green thumbs naturally.
Allan was born and raised in Sauk Centre. After he and Leah married in 1975, they lived and farmed in Melrose, Long Prairie and Padua while their children attended school in Sauk Centre. They always had big gardens before moving to Sauk Centre in 2005.
“Allan’s mother was a gardener, my mother was a gardener; I come from a long line of gardeners,” Leah said.
When they moved into town, there was one little garden in the yard and one along a wall in the back. “Every year we add something or change something,” she said. Now they have huge flower beds and vegetable gardens filling the back yard and surrounding the house.
Then in the fall of 2011, Allan was hurt and couldn’t work. He helped a neighbor who had a big garden in the country, and that garden was expanded so that Allan could have a section of it. The entire garden is now about four acres in size, on land that has never had chemicals on it.
“We’d never tried to sell produce before, but we had all this extra produce. For the last month or so, we or one of our grandkids have sold vegetables from the corner in front of our house,” Leah said. “That’s when people started asking us about a farmers market.”
The Ahrenses best crop this year has been green beans. Although they looked pretty sick in the beginning, they are now producing like crazy, Leah said.
They also have a lot of sweet corn, and the cucumbers have been doing well for both slicing and pickling.
Other items available include cabbage, eggplant, beets, potatoes, wax beans, sweet peppers and tomatoes.
With increased interest, Leah hopes the market will be held on both Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings in 2013.
“We want people to know that a person doesn’t have to have a big garden to do this,” she said. “They don’t have to come every week; just come one Saturday or whenever they have produce to sell.”
The farmers market will probably continue into October, until the squash and pumpkins are done for the season.
Those who are interested in small cucumbers for canning are asked to call the Ahrenses by Friday evening to reserve them.
Anyone interested in bringing their items to the market is requested to call Leah at (320) 493-1489.
Gerard’s Dining and Sports Bar is located at 1225 Timberlane Drive, across from the AmericInn Lodge and Suites off Interstate 94.