Saturday, June 2, 2012

Market season is underway!

New in 2012, the Big Timber Kraft and Farmers Market began today under grey clouds. But spirits were bright, with most of the 8 vendors saying the day had been pretty good for them.

The market has a good location right on the main highway into town, and clear signage points the way at each end of town, so no doubt more customers will arrive as the summer season gets underway.

Today there were two tables piled high with delectable baked goods, with plenty of pies, rolls, and the ever welcome maple bars. Some tomato plants were being sold, a reminder that early markets are a good place to stock your Montana garden.

There was also a good selection of crafts available, including jewelry, pottery, blankets, and crocheted items.

Market manager Shona Wieting made sure to add "kraft" to the market name to allow for a wide variety of goods sold.

Shona is known at local markets as the Berry Bandit, with her jellies made from mostly foraged fruits. Because she makes her jellies from scratch each year for market season, Shona often has her freezer full of fruits she's found throughout the year: grapes from a back yard, apples and plums from abandoned trees, chokecherries from wild bushes in the area.

She explained that she picks 50-100 gallons each year to make chokecherry jelly and syrup. In general, she carries a stick with a hook at the end so she can grab high branches of trees or bushes, but she also uses it to prod the ground around the place she will be picking, checking for rattlesnakes.

She's happy to leave fruits or berries for any bears that appear, preferring to flee rather than fight for her share. One year she felt the skin on the back of her neck prickle; something was watching her. It turned out to be a baby bear whose mother had been killed on the nearby highway. Shona left quickly, figuring the bear needed the chokecherries more than she did.

Shona proudly displays the first-place award she received for her chokecherry jelly at the 2011 Lewistown Chokecherry Festival. There's a lot of tough competition at that festival, so this is indeed an honor.

Stan and Norma from Wilsall appear at many area markets selling their odds and ends of imaginative items. For example, you can find many people selling lights stuffed into wine bottles, but Stan found a giant beer bottle for something different.

Stan also showed me the spinning wheel he refurbished, figuring out how to create new parts by looking at pictures of other wheels. At $200, you're getting a real bargain.

It was Stan who reminded me why vendors sit in the hot sun at farmers markets, even when they're not making much money. "You meet nice people, that's the thing," he said.

Yes, you do meet nice people. Be sure to visit as many farmers markets as you can this year!

Big Timber Kraft and Farmers Market
West 1st Ave & Hart Street, next to Car Quest and across from American Bank
June 2 - September (depending on weather)
Saturday, 9 am - 1 pm

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