New Richmond farmer's market staying fresh even after 30 years
It has been a staple of New Richmond summers for decades. The farmer's market has been combining fresh grocery shopping with community socialization since it started in 1978.
At that time, the market began under the sponsorship of the New Richmond Chamber of Commerce. With so many farmers around, it seemed natural to offer a place for them to sell their fresh produce.
"There may have been a farmer's market in Hudson at that time, but I don't know of any others," said Betty Komula, current market manager. "Bob (Olson) was instrumental in helping River Falls get theirs started and may have helped other towns around."
Olson and Mavis Croes were the first managers of the market, which was initially located in the parking lot on the corner of East Third and Arch streets, across from the Cullen Funeral Home. Olson sold his homemade honey and Croes sold fresh farm eggs - something no longer allowed at the market.
Other changes have been made over the years as to what can and can't be sold.
"There were baked goods, jams and jellies," recalled Komula. "Today they must be made in a licensed kitchen.
"Stewing hens were another item. Today they would have to be processed at a licensed facility and would have to be sold from a refrigerated vehicle."
The market only stayed at Arch Street for one year before moving to East Third Street next to Main Street. It was then determined that a more visible spot was needed, so in 1980 the market moved to the Doboy parking lot at 243 N. Knowles Ave., across from the current Dairy Queen.
In 1982, the market was open only from the first Saturday in August and ended in mid-October, compared to its current run from early July to late October. Komula said the number of vendors ranged from seven-19, depending on the weather and what vegetables were ready.
"On Saturday morning, Bob (Olson) would check what was for sale and he would go to WIXK and they would announce what was available," said Komula.
Right now, the market has 10 permanent spots and several daily spots - for locals who only want to sell when they have a surplus.
"We want to keep this as local as possible," she said. "We have a limit that you must live and grow in Wisconsin and must be within 35 miles of New Richmond. You must grow what you sell."
Doug VanSomeren, of VanSomeren Gardens in Baldwin, has been selling produce at the New Richmond market for the past 15 years.
"I sell at Hudson, Amery, Stillwater and our home stand," said VanSomeren. "I keep coming to this market because of the business opportunities and the people are very friendly."
Komula said that their current location at the Heritage Center doesn't allow much room to grow, but that is fine for keeping it small and local. They continue to offer a variety of goods such as plants, baked goods (from the Douville Bakery), honey, maple syrup and fresh vegetables.
Over the years, Komula has seen some unusual items for sale at the market.
"Puppies, kittens and very large pumpkins," she said.
Melissa Wittstock, of New Richmond, has been a regular customer of the New Richmond market for more than 15 years.
"The produce and vendors are just wonderful," she said. "You really get to know them and see other people you know in the community."
The New Richmond farmer's market is open in the Heritage Center parking lot throughout the summer Saturdays starting at 7:30 a.m. until sold out. For more information, contact the Heritage Center at 715-246-3276.