Farmers Markets are flourishing along Minnesota’s North Shore, with new vendors and markets adding a fresh infusion of energy.
In addition to the steady standbys at Grand Marais, Duluth, and Finland, new off-shoots have sprouted at Silver Bay and in Clover Valley.
After 10 years, Two Harbors Farmers Market co-founder Bianca Seay says upcoming vendors are showing growing interest. “We’ve seen huge growth, we’ve never had this many new vendors,” with nine new vendors out of 26.
Three Two Harbors market first-timers shared how their ancestors inspired their baking and how the pandemic gave them time to realign some priorities.
The Copper Spoon Bakery by Jolene Brink is delicious in its simplicity: Homemade donuts. Building on good dough, Brink lets fun reign as she mixes and matches glazes, sprinkles and toppings on old fashioned potato, raised and vegan donuts.
“There’s a donut for everyone, it’s such a simple treat that most people love,” said Brink.
Why the Copper Spoon? In a case of “truth as strange as fiction,” researching her family genealogy led Brink to a Unesco World Heritage site in Norway: the spot where her 10th-great grandfather Hans discovered a massive surface copper deposit while hunting reindeer. How could she not have copper in the name?
Playing with ideas is part of the fun for Brink, saying it feels wonderful that the stakes are not too high, with the pleasure-factor based on quality ingredients. “It’s a donut, just enjoy it” are some excellent words Brink lives by.
After a new baby and a job ending during the pandemic, Brink and family moved back to Minnesota from Montana last summer, realizing they had always wanted to return. Brink’s husband worked at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center near Finland about a decade ago, and they had good memories of the North Shore. So, they shopped for a house in Two Harbors online, had her parents check it out, and bought it sight-unseen.
The reality has been a blessing, according to Brink, “We love it, it has a huge kitchen,” calling their move next to the Big Lake “the best decision we’ve ever made.”
It’s the happiness factor that motivates Brink to come up with baked delights, saying, “In the middle of this dark-Covid winter, it made me happy to bake something that made people happy.”
Discovering her great-grandmother Bertha’s recipe for bismarks is her next challenge: learning how to create the “just right” filled donut. A longer vision has Brink imagining a small commercial kitchen-retail space to sell her donuts a couple days a week. In this version of her future, the space could be rented for a variety of food related projects, from cooking classes to processing garden harvests, or other foodie entrepreneurs.
As Brink sees it, Two Harbors gets passed by too often. “We are really betting on this town, it’s a pretty sweet, little place and we’d love to pull people downtown with hot, fresh donuts.”
Sierra Kryzer of Drifted Stone Homestead sells small-batch buns and scones, with items like apple cider scones and rosemary-garlic buns in her rotation. Moving back to Duluth in early 2020 after five years away, Kryzer prepped for her launch into the local farmers market circuit by putting in vegetable and fruiting beds, planting nut and fruit trees, and raising chickens on her “just-shy-of-two-acres market garden.”
“I get a great feeling from sustainable living, growing my own food, and sharing it with others in the community,” Kryzer said.
Kryzer learned from her grandma, “an amazing cook” from a young age, and during the pandemic found herself with the time and will for baking experimentation. Finding variability in yeast reaction and dough rise times depending on Duluth elevation and relative humidity of different seasons, Kryzer fell in love with the wild nature of baking and its surprises. A biologist by trade, Kryzer says connecting her passions of nature and sustainability through foraging wild ingredients and growing produce to use in her baked goods is a joy she wants to share.
Shay Campbell of Spilled Sugar Sweets and her husband moved from North Dakota to Two Harbors in late 2019 when recruited as paramedics. Ready to leave the flatland of their upbringing, Campbell says the North Shore was a welcome change to an outdoors lifestyle “with hiking and scenery.”
Six months later, the pandemic hit and she had a baby. Campbell chose to give up her job as childcare became challenging and looked for a way to integrate her love of baking, art and home-sourced ingredients.
Nostalgia firmly in hand, Campbell took her special memories of baking with her mother and got to work learning how to produce professionally decorated cookies. Tapping into her love of painting, Campbell quickly found her palette and was churning out custom orders, and signing up for the market. She soon added another popular goodie with family ties.
“Grandma’s recipe for coffee cake was something mom always made for our birthdays, and I have really good memories of that,” said Campbell.
Growing her own berries and herbs to use in baking, along with eggs fetched from her own hen house, Campbell feels satisfaction when she takes a home-sourced lavender-blueberry cake out of the oven.
Looking ahead Campbell sees a storefront in her new hometown where cookie baskets for every occasion are found.
“Two Harbors is growing and getting a younger crowd, it needs stuff like this to draw and keep new people,” said Campbell.
The Two Harbors market is found each Saturday morning through October at Burlington Station on Highway 61.