Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Connecting at the Faribault Farmers’ Market September 27, 2019

 

Garden-fresh flowers, like these spider mums, are available at the Faribault Farmers’ Market, open now on Saturday mornings from 7 a.m. – noon in Central Park.

 

SHOPPING AT A FARMERS’ MARKET is not simply about shopping for garden-fresh produce, home-baked goods, handcrafted items and more. It’s about the experience. That much I’ve learned in my many years of frequenting the Faribault Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

 

Musicians perform at the recent Faribault Farmers’ Market Family Day while shoppers visit the market.

 

A Minnesota item crafted by Becker Woodcraft LLC.

 

Vegetables are in abundance.

 

The experience is one of community—of coming together, of connecting, of appreciating this place and the people committed to sharing their products.

 

My friend Al sells his flowers and produce.

 

Old-fashioned zinnias grown by Al.

 

One of the youngest vendors from 3 Glad Girls sells gladiolus.

 

My local farmers’ market offers opportunities to chat with vendors like Kelly of The Giant’s House Bakery, Al with his ever-brilliant bouquets of my favorite zinnias, Denny with whatever creative treat he concocts (like chocolate-dipped jalapenos), Tiffany of Graise Farm with her duck eggs…

 

 

Heirloom tomato.

 

One of the more unusual items for sale, agates displayed in a bowl of water.

 

 

I often pause and chat with friends who are also seeking locally-grown/baked/crafted food/goods. Pumpkins. Kolacky. Homemade jams and jellies. Cookies. Bouquets of flowers. Jewelry and art.

 

A bouncy house provides fun for the kids during Family Day.

 

A musician plays the flute during Family Day.

 

The goats were a popular Family Day draw.

 

Meet the goat.

 

Milk the goat.

 

When the Faribault Farmers’ Market hosted Family Day a few Saturdays ago, I was pleased to see Central Park crowded with young families enjoying the extras of fun activities, informational booths, music and farm animals up-close.

 

Kids make fruit and vegetable prints during Family Day.

 

The atmosphere felt festive and spirited with a prevailing sense of community. More than ever today, we need to reclaim and maintain that feeling, that sense of connection that brings us together. We need one another. Whether we live in town or the country. Your local farmer’s market is a good place to start building community.

 

 

TELL ME: Do you shop farmers’ markets? If yes, what do you buy? Tell me also about your experiences.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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Another option for shopping local: the Faribault Winter Farmer’s Market December 15, 2016

Bluebird Cakery in historic downtown Faribault is decorated for the holidays.

Bluebird Cakery in historic downtown Faribault is decorated for the holidays.

UPDATE, 1:50 PM Friday: Because of the winter storm, the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market will be closed on Saturday. Instead, the market will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, December 21.

LOCALLY-GROWN/MADE has been trending for awhile. Know what you’re buying. Know the source. Know the farmer, the craftsman, the artisan.

Downtown Faribault last Saturday afternoon, here looking south on Central Avenue.

Downtown Faribault last Saturday afternoon, here looking south on Central Avenue.

This time of year, especially, we’re encouraged to shop local.

downtown-faribault-171-farmers-market

In my community of Faribault, it’s easy to buy local, direct from the hands of those who raised or grew or crafted. And nowhere is that more grassroots possible than at the Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market.

The musicians' list of holiday songs and music.

The musicians’ list of holiday songs and music.

New to Faribault’s holiday shopping scene, the market fills the cozy lobby of the Paradise Center for the Arts, 321 Central Avenue, in our historic downtown. Vendors offer jams, breads, cupcakes, horseradish, apples, maple syrup, beef, soap and more. I dropped by last Saturday afternoon to check out the winter market, recognizing sellers from the summer market in Central Park.

 

downtown-faribault-165-musicians-at-farmers-market

 

The mood was festive with a duo performing holiday tunes in a side meeting room/mini gallery. In the main gallery and in the gift shop, local art was available for purchase as part of the arts center’s Holly Days.

 

downtown-faribault-170-farmers-market

 

With the market winding down for the day, vendors had time to visit and personally promote their offerings. I sampled mango jelly on a saltine cracker. Randy sampled apples and bought a bulging bag of juicy Pzazz, an open-pollinated Honeycrisp cross. We love this apple, unheard of by us until the purchase from Apple Creek Orchard. We talked horseradish making with another vendor.

 

snowing-in-faribault-the-cheese-cave-at-night-copy

 

Earlier that day we shopped local across the street at our favorite cheese shop, The Cheese Cave. There Randy bought a wheel of St. Pete’s Select blue cheese and a chunk of a special edition Smoked St. Mary’s Grass-Fed Gouda, both made and aged in Faribault caves.

 

Faribault's Central Avenue from Fourth Street south.

Faribault’s Central Avenue from Fourth Street south.

 

I am fortunate to live in a community where local is valued, where good folks tend and harvest crops, where the bounty of the earth and of hands is shared at the farmers’ market and beyond.

TELL ME: What can you find that is locally-grown/made in your community?

FYI: The Faribault Winter Farmers’ Market is open this Saturday, December 17, from 1 – 4 p.m.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbing

 

Lots happening in Faribault (and next-door Northfield) this weekend September 9, 2016

WHETHER YOU’RE SHOPPING for fresh food or antiques or looking for some free family fun this weekend, you’ll find them all in Faribault.

A Minnesota souvenir.

Flea markets yield all types of finds, including commemorative plates like this one from an area flea market. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday and continuing until 2 p.m., vendors will offer antiques, collectibles, crafts, art and more on the Rice County Historical Society grounds, 1814 N.W. Second Avenue, during the RCHS Fall Flea Market. I’ve attended the event several times and enjoy not only the treasure sleuthing but also visiting with friends. If you want to learn about local history, the RCHS Museum of History will be open, too, with free admission during the market.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

Family Day at the Faribault Farmer’s Market in September 2015. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

Also along Second Avenue, but blocks away in Central Park near Faribault’s downtown, two more events are slated for Saturday. The Faribault Farmer’s Market celebrates Family Day with games, freebies, a scavenger hunt and more from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. The market itself runs from 7 a.m. – noon. I attended Family Day last year and was pleased with this family-focused addition to the market. It adds an extra element of fun and education and attracts younger people.

recoveryfest-copy

 

When the farmer’s market closes, more fun begins in Central Park with RecoveryFest, an event “to celebrate the positive impact of recovery from chemical dependency.” Music, kids’ activities, art, speakers, a bean bay tourney, food and more are part of the celebration that ends at 9 p.m.

The James-Younger Gang shooting it out during The Defeat of Jesse James parade perhaps five years ago.

The James-Younger Gang shooting it out during The Defeat of Jesse James parade. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo 2009.

Through-out the weekend, our neighbors to the north in Northfield continue to celebrate The Defeat of Jesse James Days. From bank raid re-enactments to a rodeo to a carnival to the grand finale parade (at 2 p.m. Sunday) and way more, the DJJD is jam-packed with activities commemorating the defeat of the notorious outlaw and his gang in this southeastern Minnesota community in 1876.

Whatever you choose to do this weekend, enjoy. In a week that’s been especially difficult here in Minnesota, we need to find joy in time with family, with friends, and with others in our community. We need to appreciate one another. And life.

TELL ME: What are your plans for the weekend?

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Celebrating locally-grown, crafted & more at the Faribault Farmers’ Market September 15, 2015

Sunshine drenched sunflowers Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmers' Market.

Sunshine drenches sunflowers Saturday morning at the Faribault Farmers’ Market.

BRILLIANT SUNSHINE SLICED sharp angles into the morning. Not ideal for photography. But a perfect morning for Family Day at the Faribault Farmers’ Market. It was a pull your jacket around you in the shade and remove it in the sunshine type of early autumn Saturday morning.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

All ages flocked to the market for Family Day.

Music adds to the festive feel of the event.

Music adds to the festive feel of the event.

Attendees could learn about bees.

Attendees could learn about bees.

And then purchase a jar of beautiful honey.

And then purchase a jar of beautiful honey.

These colorful hats would brighten any Minnesota winter day.

These colorful hats would brighten any Minnesota winter day.

And the crowd was in an almost festive mood as a piccolo played, bees buzzed, friends chatted and vendors displayed garden fresh produce, handcrafted items, baked goods and more. Shoppers could sample local honey smeared on graham crackers, homemade yogurt, apple slices and other goods as they meandered the northern and western perimeters of Central Park.

Feeding the goats.

Kids loved the goats…

...but were more cautious around the cattle.

…but were more cautious around the cattle.

Plus, the kids (and adults) could pet goats and Red Angus and Hereford cattle.

Freebies and samples.

Freebies and samples.

I love events like this geared toward families. From my observations, Family Day was a success. I frequent the Faribault Farmers’ Market. And never have I seen so many kids there. Several vendors remarked the same, expressing their appreciation for the number of folks who scoped out the market, many likely for the first time.

Henry, 21 months, enjoyed a cupcake from Bluebird Bakery.

Henry, 21 months, enjoys a cupcake from Bluebird Cakery.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Folks waited in line for these cupcakes.

Kids also waited to get their faces painted. Proceeds benefited four Faribault High School football players injured in a serious crash last week.

Kids also waited to get their faces painted. Proceeds benefited four Faribault High School football players injured in a serious crash last week.

Anne from Know-How Brews & Foods, spooned granola onto homemade yogurt as she handed out samples.

Anne from Know-How Brews & Foods spoons granola onto homemade yogurt as she hands out samples.

To me it seems a no-brainer, to offer activities for young families. Twice a month would be good. A line queued for face-painting and for Bluebird Cakery cupcakes. Grandmas strolled hand-in-hand with granddaughters. Kids poked sticks and grass at goats. Shoppers snagged reusable cloth bags from Rice County Public Health and other info from the University of Minnesota Extension Services and the Faribault Chamber of Commerce.

A mom and her young daughters sell gladioli through their business, Three Glad Girls.

A mom and her young daughters sell gladiolus through their business, The Three Glad Girls.

An example of the goat soap crafted at Whispering Creek Farm, rural Morristown.

An example of the goat soap crafted at Whispering Creek Farm, rural Morristown.

Produce abounds this time of year.

Produce abounds this time of year.

Our youth need this interactive connection to animals and the land, to those who grow and raise our food. They need to meet the hardworking individuals who tend plants and animals and the creative types who craft with their hands and hold dear those skills.

A perfect hot pad for the season.

A perfect hot pad for the season.

And now with harvest peaking, it’s the ideal time to showcase our local farmers’ market often and creatively with family-geared activities. A straw bale maze. Build a scarecrow. Pumpkin ring toss. The ideas are only limited by creativity and willing volunteers.

A musician plays her accordion at the market.

A musician plays her accordion at the market.

I’d like to hear your thoughts and suggestions on activities for families at a farmers’ market.

BONUS PHOTOS:

Peppers pop color and heat into the marketplace.

Peppers pop color and heat into the marketplace.

Vendors are still selling sweetcorn.

Vendors are still selling sweetcorn.

This jar of veggies carries the perfect name, "Summer in a Jar."

This jar of veggies carries the perfect name, “Summer in a Jar.”

Ears of colorful Indian corn are beginning to show up in vendors' offerings.

Ears of colorful Indian corn are beginning to show up in vendors’ offerings.

A vendor cradles a dog.

A vendor cradles a dog.

According to several vendors, the tomatoes were not that great this growing season. However, an abundance of them is available at the market.

According to several vendors, the tomatoes were not that great this growing season. However, an abundance of them is available at the market.

Zinnias, my favorite cut flowers from the garden.

Zinnias, my favorite cut, easy-to-grow garden flowers.

FYI: The Faribault Farmers’ Market is open seasonally from 1:30 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesdays and from 7 a.m. – noon on Saturdays in Central Park near downtown. You’ll find lots of other offerings, like jewelry, baked goods, wood crafts, and more, in addition to what I’ve showcased here in words and images.

© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Entrepreneurs, inventors & more at Owatonna Farmer’s Market June 27, 2014

A snapshot scene from the Owatonna Farmer's Market, which covers one-block square Central Park.

A snapshot scene from the Owatonna Farmer’s Market, which covers one-block square Central Park.

AMONG THE VENDORS selling lettuce and rhubarb, onions and the season’s first strawberries and cherry tomatoes, between those marketing jars of salsa, hunks of cheese, pickled asparagus and root beer jelly, mixed with others showcasing embroidered dish towels and bird feeders and fleece blankets and so much more, there are those who offer something just a tad bit different at the Owatonna Farmer’s Market.

Gene Mosher talks to my husband, Randy, about his jar cover opener.

Gene Mosher talks to my husband, Randy, about his jar cover opener.

They are folks like Gene Mosher, who calls himself an inventor. On this Saturday morning, this Owatonna resident has set up a small table to peddle his product, the jar cover opener. Most shoppers simply pass him by.

Gene gives a demo.

Gene gives a demo. So the contents don’t spill when opened, Gene suggests screwing the opener onto a board and mounting it under a cupboard, for example.

But I stop to investigate the V-shaped metal tool which Gene claims will open those hard to open jars. He places a jar inside the saw-toothed grip and, with ease, unscrews the lid. I try. Success.

Slashed price.

Slashed price.

It’s late morning and Gene’s slashed the price from $15 to $10. This is his first time at the market. He has yet to sell a single opener; he’s always given them away. And he insists I take one, too.

I suggest he market his invention at the local senior center, taking the product to those most likely to purchase it. But Gene doesn’t seem too concerned. Pressed a bit, this long ago printer and then machining model maker will tell you about the mud covers he developed for race cars and the piston ring gapping machine which is now sold all over the world. He’s an inventor and tells me I’ve just made his day by stopping to check out the jar cover opener.

Selling the EZ Tomato Cage.

Selling the EZ Tomato Cage, which collapses for storage and also has extensions for those really tall tomato plants.

Just like Gene, gardeners Luther Hanson and Mark Gengler saw a need—for a better tomato cage—and created the EZ Tomato Cage. This 59-inch tall structure made of galvanized steel and aluminum parts appears about as strong as any tomato plant holder-upper I’ve ever seen.

Not that I have a need for this $20 per unit made in America product since I grow only two tomato plants in pots. But I think immediately of my middle brother and his wife who plant dozens of tomatoes and likely would appreciate such sturdy, and collapsible for storage, construction.

Rose Gehrke of Waterville  set up a stand to sell her homemade cupcakes.

Rose Gehrke of Waterville set up a stand to sell her homemade cupcakes.

Nearby, I am impressed by Rose Gehrke, a 15-year-old entrepreneur from Waterville who some day hopes to open a cupcake shop. On this morning, she is at the market with her dad and the 96 cupcakes she baked the day prior. Some 10 hours in the kitchen. Four homemade varieties including the absolutely delectable vanilla with raspberry filling topped by cream cheese frosting and the equally delicious chocolate with a cookie dough filling and cookie dough frosting.

Rosie Cakes cupcakes come with my endorsement.

Rosie Cakes cupcakes come with my endorsement.

Inspired by the television show, Cake Boss, and kids’ birthday party cupcakes, Rose learned to bake from her mom. Now she’s got her own business, Rosie Cakes, the start-up for her dream of one day owning a cupcake shop.

And because I believe in dreams and the young people who dream them, I purchase two $2 cupcakes from Rose of Rosie Cakes.

#

BONUS FARMER’S MARKET PHOTOS:

Sweet little girls' dresses stitched by Judy Bliss.

Sweet little girls’ dresses stitched by Judy Bliss.

Dean, 11 months, snuggles against his mom's back while his parents shop at the Farmer's Market. The family recently moved from Houston, Texas, to Owatonna.

Dean, 11 months, snuggles against his mom’s back while his parents shop at the Farmer’s Market. The family recently moved from Houston, Texas, to Owatonna.

Plenty of plants were available for purchase at the market.

Plenty of plants were available for purchase at the market.

Vicki Mendez was selling her handmade LEGO crayons (available in several sizes)

Vicky Mendez of Vicky Lynn Designs was selling her hand-molded LEGO crayons (available in several sizes) plus lots of other merchandise.

Another shot of the busy market, which gets even busier once gardens really begin producing. Then vendors are set up along the sidewalk and on the grass.

Another shot of the busy market, which gets even busier once gardens really begin producing. Then vendors are set up along the sidewalk and on the grass. The massive building on the corner with the green trim is the most famous of Louis Sullivan’s banks and is called “a jewel box of the prairie” done in the Prairie School style of architecture. It’s a must-see if you’re ever in Owatonna.

FYI: The Owatonna Farmer’s Market is open from 7 a.m. – noon, May – October, at Central Park in the city’s downtown. It’s an impressive market.

 

Shopping Wisconsin style at the Appleton Farm Market October 26, 2012

The Appleton Farm Market on a brisk, early October morning.

FOR THE PAST TWO YEARS, since moving to northeastern Wisconsin, our daughter Miranda has raved about the outdoor Appleton Farm Market. She enthuses about the trolley and the entertainment, the fresh produce and flowers and crafts in this open air market in the heart of a downtown that mixes old and modern, buildings, that is.

All ages, including babies in strollers, were bundled up in the blustery weather.

So on a recent visit to Appleton, which is south of Green Bay for those of you unfamiliar with the Badger state’s cities, we took in the outdoor farm market on a cold and windy Saturday morning. It was mitten and fleece-wearing weather, although we’d left both behind in Minnesota, not expecting such cool temps.

College Avenue is blocked off to vehicle traffic for several blocks.

Our daughter knows a secret, free parking spot (if you arrive early enough) just off the east end of College Avenue, the downtown street closed to motor traffic for several blocks during the market.

Pearly Grey designer Jen Nowak-Miller tries to stay warm in her booth where she marketed these eye-catching skirts and much more. I fell in love with the prints.  Jen loves them, too, and calls her  attraction to these an “addiction.” This talented designer, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Apparel Design and Manufacturing, also offers her retro/funky clothing designs online at  “It’s All Retro Baby.” She recently relocated from Oregon back to her native Wisconsin.

And so we set off from there to explore. I found myself lagging behind the daughter and husband as I chatted with vendors and took photos of this impressive market.

The Appleton Farm Market moves into City Center, the building pictured here on the right, beginning on the first Saturday in November.

I must qualify here that I’ve previously been to the indoor Appleton Farm Market at City Center. Although nice, you just don’t get the same vibe, the same variety, as an outdoor affair. And I think that could be said for any upper Midwest market that moves indoors in the colder, non-growing season.

This Saturday marks the year’s final outdoor venue (from 8 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.) in Appleton with the market moving into City Center from November through March (9 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.). The trolley stopped running at the end of September.

This vendor pitched something about the last sweetcorn dance, so my daughter purchased six ears.

And so we walked block after block through downtown Appleton as shoppers scooped up the last of the year’s sweet corn crop, sampled BBQ on pork, clustered at knitters’ booths to slip warm mittens onto cold hands, purchased $10 bouquets of fresh flowers, speared toothpicks into cubes of Wisconsin cheese…

Piles of fresh carrots highlighted in the morning sunshine.

A shopper arrives on his bicycle and piles on the lettuce.

Ah, the bright colors of seasonal produce.

While the entertainment was limited to two young musicians under a canopy, our daughter says warmer weather brings more entertainers.

But on this Saturday in early October, the vendors and shoppers provided entertainment enough for this Minnesotan.

FYI: To learn more about the Appleton Farm Market and about downtown Appleton, click here and click here.

To learn more about the clothing designed by Jen Nowak-Miller, click here to link to her Pearly Grey, “It’s All Retro Baby,” website.

TO SEE MORE APPLETON FARM MARKET photos, keep scrolling:

Just one of the many, many vendors offering garden fresh produce.

Several crafty types sold mittens which proved popular with shoppers on the cold, cold morning. At this booth I spotted green and gold Packers mittens and told the vendor I couldn’t buy them because I was from Minnesota. Not missing a beat, and with a huge smile spreading across her face, she reached under her table, whipped out a pair of purple mittens and told me she’d just made them the previous evening.  You should have seen the surprised look on my face.

A father and son were selling these humorous candy corn faces they sawed from wood and painted.

Beautiful floral bouquets and only $10. Should have bought some for my daughter.

And just because I love flowers so much, here’s a close-up shot.

Every Wisconsin event needs brats, right?

I spotted this food truck on a side street just off College Avenue. I know in other cities, food trucks have become a point of contention for local restaurants during events. I don’t know how the restaurant owners in downtown Appleton feel about the food truck’s presence.

Happy Halloween from the same father-son duo who created the candy corn faces.

DISCLAIMER: I received a gift certificate from Downtown Appleton Inc. last year after posting about a previous visit to this city. That did not affect my decision to write again about Appleton nor the content of this post. And you can expect another story coming soon from Appleton on the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit there.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

A sweet surprise: An old sorghum mill on a southern Minnesota elk farm & more August 10, 2012

HOW MANY TIMES HAS MY FAMILY driven Minnesota Highway 60 east of Elysian, unaware of Okaman Elk Farm to the south not far from the highway? Too many.

My husband Randy and I almost missed Okaman’s again last Sunday as we traveled along Waseca County Roads 3 and 5. If not for the colorful miniature train transporting kids and adults along the shoulder of the road, we likely would have passed right by.

Passing by the Okaman Elk Express in our car on a Sunday afternoon.

But that train stopped us in our tracks and caused us to turn around and drive back to the farm.

There we discovered much more than a plain old elk farm. We also found family-friendly activities, a farmers’ market, art, animals and history.

The historic Seha Sorghum Mill.

In 1991, Don and Joyce Kaplan bought this historic place to raise elk and then sell the meat. Their business sits on the site of Okaman, a town established in 1855 between Lake Elysian and Lily Lake. Here, according to a posted sign, several hotels, a theater, the Buckout Flour Mill, the Okaman School and the Seha Sorghum Mill were located.

Inside the sorghum mill.

It is that 1895 sorghum mill, which produced and sold sorghum syrup until 1953, that most interested me. Randy and I poked our way through and around the old mill trying to determine how the whole operation worked. I think he understood the process much better than me.

Apparently wagons of sorghum were unloaded atop the hill behind the mill where the canes were crushed and the juice then flowed into steam-heated cookers, or something like that.

The original steam boiler stands behind the sorghum mill.

According to the Waseca County Historical Society website, Cornelius L. Seha built the mill, today the only known historical sorghum mill remaining in Minnesota and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

Because the mill today is basically an old building and steam boiler with weeds and brush growing around the holding tanks, equipment and structures, everything is left open to self-interpretation. Perhaps someday this historic site can be restored and specific educational information posted.

Cats roam the farm.

Then, perhaps, the younger farm visitors will be more interested in the historic buildings. They are, for now, focused on  the donkeys and alpacas, the goats and elk and dog, and especially, the cats and kittens. Or perhaps the playground equipment.

Visitors are free to wander the pasture with the alpacas, donkeys and goats.

Loved this sign at the petting zoo telling visitors that the animals are fed daily.

The farm is open seven days a week to the 3,000 – 4,000 visitors who stop by annually, says Joyce Kaplan. The Kaplans may not always be around, but guests are invited to peruse the place on their own. Just follow a few rules like:

You can enter the petting zoo pens or pastures at your own risk. Please don’t allow children to chase the animals and no dogs allowed. Close gates behind you.

Veggies from R & C Produce of Otisco.

Canned mixed veggies from Val’s Yard ‘N Gardens (Joe & Val Zimprich of Le Center).

Reusable price stickers in the back of the Zimprichs’ truck.

While the farm is always open, on Sundays from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. during the summertime harvest and into October, farmers’ market vendors set up in the farmyard peddling their garden fresh produce and other products.

An art gallery is housed in an old barn.

That beautiful old barn, with an art gallery and studio in the haymow.

Antler art, including chandeliers, inside the art gallery with Paul Ristau’s art studio behind the windows pictured here.

Inside the gift shop and adjacent art gallery, you’ll find gifts anytime and the creations of artist and craftsman Paul Ristau, who renovates homes and businesses and is a mason specializing in stone fireplaces. He was doing some tile work for the Kaplans and ended up as their in-house artist focusing on the creation of antler art. He has a workshop in the haymow-turned-art-gallery where his elk antler chandeliers are a focal point.

A Native American influence on art hung in Paul Ristau’s studio.

A Native American influence is visible in Ristau’s art given his interaction with those living on the White Earth Indian Reservation where he once drove bus.

Of course, the farm also sells elk meat, inside the original 1893 homestead. The farm is now down to 23 elk, according to Joyce Kaplan who says she grew up on a farm and has been cleaning barns all her life and maybe it’s time soon to stop cleaning barns.

The final activity of the day, feeding apples to the elk.

On the Sunday I visited, her husband was handing out apples so the kids could feed the elk.

And the Okaman Elk Express was chugging along the shoulder of the roadway, thrilling the kids and, bonus, drawing in visitors like my husband and me.

You’ll find binoculars in the barn to view the elk in the pasture.

FYI: To find Okaman Elk Farm, take Minnesota Highway 60 east of Elysian 1 ½ miles and then turn south to the intersections of Waseca County roads 3 and 5. The farm is open year-round. Click here to reach the farm’s website.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling