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By Sarah Gorvin, Pierce County Herald

MINNESOTA–The number of indoor farmers markets in the United States has increased by nearly 50 percent since 2011, the United States Department of Agriculture reported in November. That year there were just more than 1,200 winter markets; now, that number sits at slightly less than 1,700.

“These investments are a win-win,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said. “Farmers have more stability, and consumers have a reliable supply of local food, regardless of the season.”

The new indoor winter market in Zumbrota is part of that growing trend. Stephan Jennebach owns Firebrick Bread and organized the winter market, which opened in November.

The idea came to Jennebach when the Zumbrota summer farmers market was wrapping up at the end of the season, leaving him without a place to sell his loaves.

“The breads had been selling really well during the summer,” he said. “As we were getting near the end of the season, people were getting nervous they wouldn’t be able to get their bread.”

The Zumbrota indoor winter market now takes place from 1 to 5 p.m. every Monday at Main Street Trading Company, 228 Main St.

“During the summer, the focus is on produce,” Jannebach said. “During the winter it’s more canned goods and sweets, treats, baked goods and some craft items.”

Red Wing Area Farmers Market, which operates every day of the year during the summer months, has offered an indoor winter market Saturday mornings for the past three years. President John Anderes said when he was first starting the indoor market, there weren’t that many of its kind around.

“I could only think of the one in Madison (Wis.) that had a winter market,” he said.

Now, they’re much more common.

“People are looking at that as another option,” Anderes said. “I think it’s good for everyone.”

Anderes said people have become more reliant on the locally grown food — such as honey — available at farmers markets. Once winter rolls around those products can become hard to find.

“You get consumers into this stuff: fresh foods, all these products,” he said. “If there wasn’t a winter market, they may not have that ability to buy it.”

Still, winter markets don’t come without their own set of challenges.

Anderes said space is more cramped once the vendors move inside for the season. The Red Wing market, which operates out of Sargent’s Nursery’s greenhouse, is only able to have 12 to 14 vendors each week.

“We could have a few more, but not a ton more, just because of space,” he said.

Zumbrota is able to have between eight and twelve vendors, Jannebach said, adding that he has a waiting list for vendors who can’t fit.

Turnout, too, can be another issue, Anderes added. Because of the Red Wing market’s summer location at the Depot, tourists make up a large portion of the outdoor market’s clientele. But in the winter, Anderes said, there are about 40 to 50 percent fewer visitors.

“That’s a lot of bodies we’re missing there,” he said.

To help draw more people in, Anderes said the market brings in musicians for entertainment and has a gathering space with coffee available.

“It’s bright and sunny. It is a nice environment,” he said.

The Zumbrota market’s turnout has been good so far, Jannebach said.

“People were excited about it,” he said. “There seems to be demand. People were anxious to get their products.”

This article was written by Sarah Gorvin and published in the Pierce County Herald on January 6, 2013.

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