At the 14th annual North Dakota Farmers Market and Growers Association (NDFMGA) and Local Foods Conference, held last month in Minot, the group focus continued to be on getting locally grown foods on North Dakota tables. This year, the focus expanded to include how to get a nice glass of North Dakota wine on tables to accompany those meals.
“We want North Dakota vegetables on every plate in the state, and we’d like them to drink our local wines, too,” says Hero Barth, Bismarck. Barth is president of the NDFMGA board of directors. He and his family own and operate Farm Fresh Gardens, five miles east of Bismarck, which is served by Capital Electric Cooperative.
The additional emphasis on local wines at NDFMGA annual meeting was intentional, as the North Dakota Grape and Wine Association (NDGWA) chose to hold its annual meeting to coincide and co-locate with the NDFMGA meeting.
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.
Similarly, on behalf of its member winemakers and growers, NDGWA exists to provide education, promotion and extension of the art and science of winemaking and growing grapes and other wine component crops.
One of the sessions at the NDFMGA annual meeting was devoted to communication between members of that association and members of the NDGWA. The goal was to explore how local crops/food growers might plan food crop varieties which could be utilized as wine components by winemakers.
Greg Cook, owner/operator of 4e Winery, near Casselton, and a member of the NDGWA board of directors, says members in their group are passionate about creating wines of the state and the region. He adds that the winemaking community, and his winery, want wine drinkers and purchasers to know them as friends and neighbors.
“In terms of the wine experience, we want it to be as local as possible – to be about place,” Cook says.
Cook says 4e Winery has ramped up its wine output considerably in recent years. Last year, it bottled nearly 1,000 cases of wine. He said his winery grows and incorporates grapes from vines it nurtures, and produces sweet wines, dry wines for meals, and other wine varieties.
At Farm Fresh Gardens, Barth and his family continue to grow vegetables for farmers market distribution, with the BisMarket being their principal outlet. Their vegetable crops include peas, beans, beets, carrots, pumpkins, cucumbers (for pickling) and zucchini. Their hope for the coming growing season is rain, which was scarce last year.
Barth appreciates the farmers market venue as a place to do business, and as a place to sustain positive relationships.
“I like the fact that you are able to grow everything and take it to sell it directly to somebody who really appreciates fresh grown vegetables,” he says. “And the intermingling and interacting with people is fulfilling.”
Cook says a point of emphasis for his winery and for other North Dakota wineries is to welcome visitors, and share the tastes and rural splendor of their locations. “Visiting wineries is something people go to Napa Valley to do, but we can do that right here, in beautiful settings,” Cook says.
Holly Mawby, executive director of NDFMGA, says the collaboration and communication doors opened at the joint meetings last month are an important development. She adds that communication the groups continue to do will also be a key to their future success.
“We want to solidify that this is not a fad, or a trend, but our local foods are an integral part of the way North Dakotans eat and live,” Mawby says.
In addition to work for the NDFMGA, Mawby is director at the Entrepreneurial Center for Dakota College at Bottineau.