Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Welcome, anglers & vegetable lovers August 8, 2020

The sign marking Lake Country Convenience & Bait in tiny Shieldville, Minnesota.


AT LAKE COUNTRY CONVENIENCE & Bait in Shieldsville, you can pick up a Heggie’s pizza, meat from Dean’s Smoke Shack, firewood, a fishing or hunting license, coffee, even a face mask, and much more.

Need bait? Pull out your Minnow Punch Card. Buy six scoops of minnows and the seventh is free.

Fuel up. And, if you need to use the restroom, Lake Country claims to have “the cleanest bathrooms in the area.” Rather important in these days of COVID-19.

This convenience store/gas station/bait shop also claims to have “the best soft serve ice cream in Rice County,” although Dairy Queen may dispute that.


The sign on the back of the vegetable stand and visible from Minnesota State Highway 21 with the convenience store seen in the background.


But there’s one more aspect of Lake Country Convenience that may just draw you to this business serving the community of Shieldsville and the surrounding lakes area. That’s Mark’s Fresh Veggies, a seasonal pop-up vegetable stand.



Recently, while driving through Shieldsville, which is about 10 miles northwest of Faribault, Randy and I stopped to check out Mark’s produce, displayed inside a small metal shed next to the Lake Country parking lot. The portable shed appears to also serve as an ice fishing shelter in the winter.


The non-descript entrance to Mark’s Fresh Veggies Stand.


The produce is divided into bins in the handcrafted display area.




We pulled up, waited for another customer to exit the tiny vegetable shed and then went inside, masked, and looking for fresh sweetcorn. We found the corn, along with tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and cabbage, all separated in custom-built compartments. The kohlrabi were gone; no problem for me as I don’t particularly like them.


Put your money here.


I expected payment would be inside the convenience store. But, nope, Mark has set up an honor system payment plan. I love this, when roadside vegetable vendors trust customers. Mark provides bags, a scale, and even a notebook to jot down purchases before dropping payment into a secure metal box. And then, he’s even thoughtfully set out hand sanitizer.


Choose your corn.


Weigh your tomatoes, or just pay 75 cents for two.


Note your purchases.


Randy bagged our six ears of sweetcorn while I chose two tomatoes. He paid. And then we exited Mark’s Fresh Veggies Stand, grateful for gardeners like Mark who provide us with fresh seasonal vegetables here in southern Minnesota.


Mark’s Fresh Veggies, one of many sources for fresh produce in Rice County.


TELL ME: Do you have a favorite spot to get local fresh produce? We buy from a variety of local vendors, including those at the Faribault Farmers’ Market.

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Welcome, anglers & vegetable lovers”

  1. I have been going to the same stand for years, run by the same family. There’s a trust there and they’ve never broken it. I appreciate that, especially now

  2. JanBeek Says:

    God bless the Minnesotans who keep the honor system alive and the customers who keep it well. We used to have a Honey Shelf in central CA and Bob’s parents had it for three decades before we did … “Take Your Honey, Leave Your Money.” It worked for half a century before enough people took the Honey and left no money, so we had to drop the system. I’m glad it’s alive In MInnesota.

  3. valeriebollinger Says:

    Up north we get maple syrup from a similar set up using the honor system. I have always appreciated that.

  4. Sandra Van Erp Says:

    We had so many farmers in the family, patronizing roadside stands didn’t happen until I got to the cities. Mother’s dedication to “fresh” was attributed to her longevity success with the MS. My German uncle just looked at the seeds and they grew. Always had a huge harvest. Now I’m a regular at our Farmer’s Market on White Bear Ave. and if I can get up early enough for parking, downtown St. Paul main market. It’s gotten so congested, but they’re having a great year despite everything. WBA does a great job with probably 20 sellers and a master gardener on hand. I’m good on corn, tomatoes, potatoes. That pay on the honor system is good to hear about!

  5. wyonne Says:

    You can’t help but really love rural Minnesota! Thanks soooooo much, Audrey!!

  6. Lara/Trace Says:

    Right up the road we get sweet corn and everything else home-grown at a farm stand. We can meet the farmer when he brings in his bushels. Your wonderful post made me realize how much I miss the midwest. But in Greenfield, MA, we have wonderful farmers who care and feed us.

  7. What a great idea to use the fishing shed for a produce stand in the off season. I have shared we have a lot of great markets around here and one of my favorites leaves a few things out at night with an honor system box as well. Not their whole inventory but some potatoes, onions, tomatoes and the like in case someone runs out and just needs to pick something up after hours. This is my favorite time of year for produce.

    • I agree with the “favorite time of year” for produce. On Saturday I picked up garden fresh tomatoes and a beautiful bouquet of garden flowers (a girls gotta treat herself) at the Faribault Farmers’ Market while Randy bought sweetcorn.

  8. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    I love Marks little shack, always fun to stop and buy fresh! Rick and I love to visit the Farmer’s market in Park Rapids.

  9. What A find!! A self serve-honor system veggie stand! Unheard of in this day & age! Thanks for sharing!!

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