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Variety, growth mark farmers market local foods community

The board of directors of the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association, in attendance at last month’s conference, include, from left: Roberta Thorson, Daniel Rugroden, Stephanie Blumhagen, Mike Pretzer, Hero Barth, Bonnie Munsch and Roberta Hunt. Holly Mawby, far right, is executive director for the organization.
The board of directors of the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association, in attendance at last month’s conference, include, from left: Roberta Thorson, Daniel Rugroden, Stephanie Blumhagen, Mike Pretzer, Hero Barth, Bonnie Munsch and Roberta Hunt. Holly Mawby, far right, is executive director for the organization.

 

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Hero Barth, Bismarck, president of the North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association (NDFMGA), is a big believer in the edible products and other original products the local growers of the state now offer.

“It's local, it's fresh, it's healthy, and we are here to serve,” Barth says.

Barth, and a growing group of local food producers, gathered last month in Mandan, for the organization’s 13th annual conference. NDFMGA and the N. D. Department of Agriculture cooperate to co-sponsor the annual conference.

Barth and his family own and operate Farm Fresh Gardens five miles east of Bismarck, where they raise and sell a variety of vegetables at Capital Farmers Market, BisMarket, and do wholesale supply for Twin City Produce and Papa’s Pumpkin Patch. Barth is a member of Capital Electric Cooperative, Bismarck.

NDFMGA is a marketing organization that is geared to help food producers improve their marketing skills and to assist in supporting locally grown and processed North Dakota products.

Its purposes include: building a farmers market program that connects producers and consumers; developing marketing tools and strategies for producers and market managers to ensure long-term sustainability of rural North Dakota; and to increase consumer and producer awareness on the benefits of fresh, locally grown products.

Membership in NDFMGA is available to everyone who is engaged in the production or promotion of direct marketing of freshly grown or processed North Dakota products. Holly Mawby serves as executive director for the organization.

“I remember the very first meeting of this association, in Carrington. It was just a few people,” Mawby recalls. “And now we have grown to over 500 members all across the state.” Mawby says diversity in product offerings – much of it related to processing a crop into a food item – has spurred growth.

“It used to be pretty much vegetables, and then it was vegetables and jelly, and pretty soon you were seeing vegetables and jellies and a few baked goods. And now if you want something, and it's a product that can be produced or grown or raised in North Dakota, you can find it at a farmers market,” Mawby says. In addition to the NDFMGA role, Mawby serves as director of the Entrepreneurial Center for Horticulture at Dakota College, Bottineau.

The variety of education sessions at this year’s conference is indicative of the widening variety of food product lines coming from the state’s local producers. Among many educational sessions at this year’s conference were sessions on: sheep and goat husbandry; baking with heritage grains; meat sales and processing regulations; educating consumers on cooking with new vegetables; egg layer production; and bird meat production.

Barth says the array of sessions reflects the greatest strength of NDFMGA.

“With this organization, it’s a matter of networking and it’s a matter of learning. I would say education is our biggest thing,” he says.

Mawby says NDFMGA also has a program of monetary grants made available to individual producers, vendors and supporters in the local foods production community in the state.

“Last year, we gave out more new vendor grants than we ever have, more than 40,” she says.

Mawby emphasizes that local food producers are growing in numbers and prominence in the state’s economic picture.

“We are an important part of North Dakota’s agricultural industry,” Mawby says. “This is a rapidly growing part of our economy. We would love to see North Dakota produce and products on every plate in the state.”