Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Meet Bill, the sweetcorn salesman August 21, 2013

Bill Edelback sells sweetcorn, a green pepper, three cucumbers and a zucchini to my husband, Randy.

Bill Edelbach sells fresh vegetables to my husband, Randy.

I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND why Bill Edelbach sold an entire pick-up full of sweetcorn and other farm fresh vegetables while parked along a busy street corner in Kenyon this past Sunday.

Cucumbers and peppers, three for $1.

Cucumbers and peppers, three for $1.

He’s quite the salesman, pointing me to the peppers and cucumbers and zucchini when my husband and I had stopped only for sweetcorn.

Even a few heads of cabbage for sale.

Even a few heads of cabbage for sale. Tomatoes are slow in ripening this year, Bill says.

For more than 50 years, Bill has vended veggies grown on his Kellogg area farm. You can see those years chiseled in lines across his forehead, around his eyes, through his cheekbones.

Years of work etched in Bill's face.

Years of work etched in Bill’s face.

Bill has the kind of weathered face that I love to photograph, a face that distinguishes him as a long-time farmer. One who loves the land and the food he grows. He’s a hard worker; you can see that in his thin frame, in his hands.

Gotta appreciate the handcrafted signage as much as Bill.

Gotta appreciate the handcrafted signage.

There’s another thing you should know about Bill.  Something like 30 years ago, he says, Tombstone Pizza folks were traveling around to small towns for a marketing campaign. They came upon Bill and his veggie vehicle parked in Cannon Falls, bought the whole truckload of sweetcorn, and moved him and his truck this way and that while photographing the scene.

Bagging our sweetcorn late Sunday afternoon.

Bagging our sweetcorn late Sunday afternoon.

That’s Bill’s claim to fame. Plus 50 years of selling his field fresh vegetables in small-town Minnesota.

For less than $5, we purchased half a dozen ears of sweetcorn, three cucumbers, a green pepper and a zucchini.

For less than $5, we purchased half a dozen ears of sweetcorn, three cucumbers, a green pepper and a zucchini.

In less than two hours, we were feasting on Bill's sweetcorn; garden fresh potatoes purchased last week from another roadside vendor; and smoked pork chops bought fresh at a local grocery store meat counter.

Two hours later we were feasting on Bill’s sweetcorn; garden fresh potatoes purchased last week from another roadside vendor; and smoked pork chops bought fresh at a local grocery store meat counter.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


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