Author Archives: Emily Margeson

Kids Activities!

By Jessi Myers

Kids activities are back at the Clear Lake Farmers Market for the 2021 season.  As in years past, a variety of activities and crafts will be offered throughout the season.  The activities appeal to a variety of ages and interests. POP Kids Club has expanded to join the Clear Lake Farmers Market as well. Encourage your children to engage in their local food system in a fun and interactive way. POP stands for Power of Produce!  

ISU extension will be bringing the Conservation Station to market on September 18th.  According to the Iowa Living Farms website, “Iowa Learning Farms partners with Water Rocks! to bring audiences the

Conservation Stations—a fleet of mobile learning centers that educate audiences of all ages on different conservation aspects. Each trailer houses a unique combination of highly visual and interactive Iowa-centric demonstrations that delve into the impacts of land management choices, both urban and agricultural, on water quality and the connections between our state’s water, soil, and wildlife.”

Tools of the Trade is our newest addition to the kids activity line up.  Local professionals and organizations volunteer their time to bring the tools they use to do their work, for kids to interact with and ask questions about.  We have visits planned this season from the Clear Lake Fire Department, the instrument petting zoo by the Surf Ballroom Education program, Pro 243 Construction, Hejna Racing, and many more.  

MAKE at Market, a crowd favorite, will be returning mid-season.  MAKE is a mobile maker space complete with tools, crafting supplies, and recycled and upcycled materials all available for use in kids’ creative ventures.  Kids are encouraged to use a combination of the materials to create their vision.  The activity offers an opportunity for kids to imagine, design, create, build and learn in a safe environment.  Parental supervision is required for this activity and safety glasses are provided and required when using hand tools.  

If you are interested in sponsoring an activity, or donating materials or time by volunteering please contact  We are always looking for recycled materials, wood scraps, and remnant crafting materials for the activities and MAKE. 

It is an exciting time at the farmers market!

By Judy Delperdang

It’s an exciting time at the farmers market! More produce is coming into season!

There’s still the early spring vegetables, like lettuce, asparagus, and radishes, as well as spring/summer fruits like rhubarb and strawberries.

You can shop for your favorites, or branch out and try something new.

My go-to cookbook this time of year is “Minnesota’s Bounty: The Farmers Market Cookbook” by Beth Dooley. It’s a treasure-trove of information, allowing me to be brave and adventurous in my shopping. It lists every food item you’d find at the market, from fruits and vegetables to herbs and meat. There’s generally a description of the item, a cook’s note, quick serving ideas and a couple of recipes.

If you’re on the hunt for radishes, you might find Easter egg radishes, French breakfast radishes or daikons. For a quick idea, Dooley says to shred a daikon, toss with sesame oil and season with rice wine vinegar, salt, pepper and chopped cilantro.

One of my favorite ways of preparing radishes is to roast them. It gives them a more mellow flavor, with a little less bite. You can also save and saute the radish tops.

Roasted radishes:

2 bunches radishes, de-stemmed and cleaned

1 Tbsp olive oil

¼ tsp salt

Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and carefully add radishes. Sprinkle with salt and cover. Hold the pan’s handle and lid with potholders and “shake” every minute or two (like popcorn). Cook for 15-20 minutes until browned on the outside and tender on the inside.

Find your favorites from your favorite vendors. But get there early – before they sell out!

The Clear Lake Farmers Market is open from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday in the Surf Ballroom parking lot. You can also find us online at, as well as Facebook and Instagram. The Mason City Farmers Market is on Tuesday and Friday from 4:00-6:00 pm in downtown Mason City. 1st NE & Delaware ave. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook and find us on our webpage.

Navigating the Market for Newbie

If you’re new to the Farmers Market it may seem foreign oroverwhelming at first. What’s makes an “heirloom tomato” so special? Why should you buy “pasture-raised, heritage breed” pork? What makes bread “artisan”? And Duck Eggs???REALLY????

BUT, if you just stop by a time or two you’ll soon start to feellike part of the family. The Live music is back on this year and itgives the market a fun, festive atmosphere.  It really doesn’t matter what you know or don’t know… the vendors are all amazing at explaining what makes their local products special and they will be more than willing to share their passion about growing, raising, or creating their items! They are happy to answer ANY and ALL questions and if you take the time to talk to them you might be amazed at what Saturday night dinners can turn into!

Even if you don’t know what you’re looking for it’s worth the time to stop in on Saturday mornings to experience the funatmosphere and the other activities.  In addition to the live music there will be Youth Venders (young entrepreneurs trying their hand at selling their creations), hands on children’s activities, taste testing opportunities – from time to time, and other special events. It’s so much fun to meet a friend at the market, grab a coffee or lemonade, and browse the items that are being showcased by the small businesses in our community. You might even run into a long lost friend or find yourself in a deep conversation about the most delicious vegetables you’ve ever experienced. 

Even though the market season is just getting going this year, don’t wait too long to stop by.  The “seasons” changes quickly in North Iowa and just as the asparagus and rhubarb will only be around for a few short weeks, soon we’ll be into green beans  and tomatoes, and then onto squash and potatoes. Experience all these changes and by putting a Reminder on Your Calendar to head down to the Surf Ballroom every Saturday, from 9-noon. SEE YOU AT THE MARKET!

The 2021 Farmers Market season opens to bring the best local options to customers

Opening day in Clear Lake is Saturday, May 15th from 9-12:00 pm at the Surf Ballroom! And Tuesday, May, 18th from 4-6:00 pm at the Mason City Farmers Market at 1st NE & Delaware Ave.

We are keeping up to date with public health recommendations and will be modifying the market as needed. Plan to come out and support local farmers, vendors and our entire community. 

Watch for information about the NEW Kids Club program called, POP. Power of Produce beginning in June. As well as a Veggie Voucher program NEW to our area.

Returning to the farmers market is Curbside Market. Online ordering for pickup at the curb will be available. Also returning is our centralized SNAP machine that is available at every market with Double Up Food Bucks cards to stretch your food budget. Redeem at Clear Lake or Mason City Farmers Market.

Check our website, facebook and instagram for updates on special events, music and activities!

With the great spring weather, expect to see beautiful early produce, delectable baked goods, artisanal breads, beef, pork, and poultry. And as always, local honey, chicken eggs, duck eggs, handcrafted soaps, lotions, bug repellent, handmade jewelry, hand sewn items, beautiful glass and pottery creations, beautiful cut flower arrangements, and so, SO much more!

We’re very thankful for how the market has grown over the last couple of years and excited to see what’s next at the Clear Lake Farmers Market. 

SO…Mark your calendars for Saturday mornings from 9am to noon on Saturday, May 15th at the Surf Ballroom and Tuesday, May 18th in Mason City from 4-6:00 pm at 1st NE & Delaware.  

The market is a great way to support our local economy!

Seasons end!

By Marie Boyd, Executive Director of Healthy Harvest of North Iowa

The crisp air and changing leaves tell us that farmers market season will soon be coming to an end. When it does, there are still several options when it comes to buying local foods. 

First, there is a database on our website ( where you can search for local products such as meat, eggs, honey, storage crops (squash, potatoes, carrots, onions etc.) and purchase directly from the farms – sometimes for delivery! 

Other options include Simply Nourished on Main Street in Clear Lake, and the Hy-Vee stores in Mason City who try to offer local products year-round. 

Until then, shop the Clear Lake Farmers Market, through Oct. 17, and enjoy the bounty of the season! 


You can substitute any sweet winter squash for the kabocha here – like butternut or buttercup! Ingredients with an asterisk (*) are available seasonally right here in North Iowa! 


1 large kabocha squash*

1/4 cup full-fat canned coconut milk + more for serving

2-3 tbsp honey* (to taste)

2 tbsp whisky (optional)

1/4 tsp to 1/2 ground cinnamon to taste

Pinch ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp sea salt to taste

Optional toppings: pecans, roasted squash seeds


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the pith and seeds. Drizzle with olive oil, sea salt and cinnamon and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake on the center rack of the oven, 45-55 minutes, or until flesh is very soft when poked with a fork.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Add the coconut milk, honey, cinnamon, and sea salt. Mash and stir until everything is well combined.Add more cinnamon, sea salt, and/or honey to taste.

Serve with additional coconut milk, pumpkin seeds, and pecans

Yield: 2 -4 servings

Adapted from The Roasted Root

Food preservation!

By Laura Tidrick

Interest in preserving food has increased this year. Canning supplies, specifically lids, are difficult (if not impossible) to come by. I personally can a variety of vegetables, jams, sauces and meat, and panicked when I couldn’t find lids in the stores. I have since found enough but for those who don’t have the supplies or would prefer not to can there are still a variety of ways to preserve all kinds of food.

Freezing is one of the easiest ways to save food for future use. When I don’t have the time to can tomatoes, I often freeze them in air tight containers or freezer bags and take them out in the winter when I have more time to make a large batch of sauce. A bonus of saving some canning for cold winter days is that you actually want the heat and humidity in your home vs a hot August day. A variety of foods can be frozen including herbs, greens, meats, vegetables and even eggs.

Short on freezer space? We often are as we raise pork and poultry and our freezers are generally full in the fall. Dehydrating is another great way to preserve food. We have a cheap dehydrator that makes all kinds of noise but we put it in the garage while it’s running and are able to dehydrate all kinds of things. One of our favorite things to dehydrate is mushrooms. We forage for morel mushrooms and also buy shiitake mushrooms from a local farmer.They dehydrate easily, and when allowed to set in a bowl of water they come to life again beautifully. They can also be added directly to a pot of stock as it’s boiling for extra flavor. Apples, other fruits, meat and many other things can be put in a dehydrator. Many herbs can be air dried easily too. I often tie up bunches of sage, oregano, parsley and other herbs and hang them in the basement or garage for later use.

Interested in learning more about preservation?  The Central Gardens of North Iowa holds a yearly “Preservation Celebration”. This years’ event will be held virtually on September 18th. Visit for details

What’s in season?

What’s in season?  ONIONS!  It seems that onions are one of those foods where you either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.  As for me, onions are one of my absolute favorite foods.  They can be pickled, caramelized, fried or eaten raw.  There’s red, yellow, green, sweet, white, scallions – so many varieties and all delicious.  With the weather beginning to change and cooler nights coming I thought I would share one of my all-time favorite recipes and favorite ways to eat onions: French Onion Soup.  Below is my own take on this classic:


  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 8 c. thinly sliced onions
  • 2 Tbsp All-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ c. Beef Stock, hot
  • 4-5 Tbsp brandy
  • ½ c. vermouth
  • ½ c. dry white wine
  • Salt/pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Fresh Thyme leaves
  • 8 toasted baguette slices ¼ – ½ in. thick
  • Swiss/provolone cheese slices


  1. Set sauce pan over medium heat with butter and oil.  When the butter has melted stir in the onions, cover and cook slowly until translucent – about 10 minutes or so. 
  2. Blend in sugar and turn the heat to medium-high, let the onions brown, stirring often until they turn a dark walnut color. 25-30 minutes. 
  3. Sprinkle flour over the onions and cook slowly, stirring for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Remove from heat and whisk in 2 c. of stock.  When blended, bring to a simmer, adding the rest of the stock, brandy and vermouth.
  5. Cover loosely and simmer very slowly for 1 ½ hours, adding in more stock if the liquid reduces too much.
  6. Add 1 tsp thyme leaves, salt and pepper
  7. Ladle soup into your bowls, top with 2 bread slices, 2 slices of cheese, thyme leaves and broil until cheese bubbles. Enjoy!

Iowa Sweet Corn

By Jessi Myers

Iowa is known for corn. Most Iowans look forward to sweet corn season and can’t wait to pick up a dozen from their favorite Farmers market vendor or roadside pickup truck. According to, only one percent of the corn grown in the United States is sweet corn, which also comprises only one percent of Iowa’s corn crop. No wonder it’s exciting when it’s available August to early October.

Sweet corn can be boiled, grilled, steamed, oven-roasted or cooked in a slow cooker. What then though?

One recipe to consider is Elote or Mexican street corn. This can be made on the cob or remove kernals and serve as a dish. Elote doesn’t require specific measurements – everything can be added to taste. Cook corn using your preferred method. Brush with melted butter when it’s done. Mix sour cream or greek yogurt and mayonnaise and spread it on the corn. Then add chili powder, cayenne pepper and chopped cilantro, and finish it with your choice of cotija cheese or queso fresco and a few squeezes of lime.

Whether you want to get adventurous with flavors, or prefer tried and true, freezing corn can extend your access to the tasty treat.

In a blog post for the Iowa State Extension, Liz Meimann gave the following tips:

“Whole kernel corn: can be frozen by blanching the kernels before removing them from the cob. Blanch the corn for 4½ minutes, cool in ice water, and then cut the kernels from the cobs.

Cream style corn: follow the above directions but only cut the kernel tips. Next scrape the cobs with the back of a knife to remove the heart of the kernel and form some “cream”.

Corn on the cob: Blanch the ears for the time listed. Cool the cobs in ice water. Cooling the corn requires a longer time than blanching: small ears (1¼-inch diameter) for 7 minutes, medium ears (1¼-1½-inch diameter) for 9 minutes, large ears (over 1½-inch diameter) for 11 minutes.

Stop by the Clear Lake Farmers Market in the Surf parking lot for corn and many other locally-grown vegetables. Farmers market is held Saturdays 9am-noon through Oct 17th.

All About Melons….

By Judy Delperdang

Nothing says summer quite like a juicy melon. Whether your tastes run to ripe red (or yellow!) watermelon, or creamy cantaloupe, a melon can be just the thing to quench your thirst, fill you up, and satisfy your sweet tooth.

According to Healthy Harvest of North Iowa’s 2020 North Iowa Local Food Guide, melons are in season ( ).

Watermelon is 92 percent water, which makes it a great option for hydration. And during the dog days of August, it’s important to stay hydrated.

It’s an important source of lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant. Not surprisingly, it’s also rich in vitamin C and beta-carotene (which the body converts into vitamin A). These antioxidants may help strengthen the immune system, and who doesn’t want that?

At only 46 calories per cup, watermelon can be enjoyed by the slice, or in salads, smoothies, salsas, or a chilled summer soup.

Maybe you want a cantaloupe for your salads and smoothies.

At 90 percent water, and 60 calories per cup, cantaloupe is also a great choice for keeping hydrated. It has more beta-carotene than other orange/yellow fruit (as much as carrots!). And a cup of cantaloupe contains more than 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin C.

A ripe cantaloupe should be symmetrical, feel slightly heavy, and be a creamy, light yellow-orange with little to no green. Ripe cantaloupe should smell sweet and a little musky.

A watermelon should be smooth and heavy for its size, with a large, creamy yellow “field spot.” The longer the watermelon is allowed to ripen in the field, the brighter and larger the spot.

Look for these summer fruits – and more – at the Clear Lake Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Oct. 17 in the Surf Ballroom parking lot.

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram, and visit our webpage at for up-to-date information.

New program adds access for ALL families

The North Iowa and Clear Lake Farmers Markets add program benefiting low income families

By Lisa Packer, Local Food Coordinator, Healthy Harvest

The North Iowa and Clear Lake Farmers Markets have added the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program, a healthy food incentive supporting families living with food insecurity.

A program of Iowa Healthiest State Initiative, DUFB matches the value of federal nutrition benefits spent at participating farmers’ markets, helping people bring home more healthy, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Here’s how it works: Double Up matches the value of SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) purchases at participating sites with additional dollars to spend on fresh, locally-grown produce. For instance, a family that spends $10 in SNAP benefits at a participating farmers market receives an additional $10 in Double Up Food Bucks to purchase Iowa-grown produce.

With 50 vendors across both markets, farmers markets are a great avenue for everyone looking to buy local, including our Double Up families.

The benefits ripple through our community: low-income families eat more healthy food, local farmers gain new customers and make more money, and more food dollars stay local.

Adding DUFBs helps low-income families stretch their food dollars, and easily access fresh, local produce.

Our farmers markets are family-friendly where people connect with the farmers who grow their food, try new foods, set healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime and enjoy affordable, accessible fresh fruits and vegetables.

Double Up Food Bucks began in six Iowa farmers markets in 2016 and is now active at 13 sites including farmers markets, farm stands, and mobile markets across Iowa. In 2016, the program reached 1,000 SNAP recipients resulting in more than $25,000 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables purchased from Iowa family famers. From a 2016 program evaluation, 94 percent of SNAP shoppers reported eating more fruits and vegetables and 74 percent of farmers reported making more money because of Double Up.

The Clear Lake Farmers Market is 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays in the Surf Ballroom parking lot through Oct. 17.

For more information about Double Up Food Bucks, visit, call 515-309-3227 or email The Healthiest State Initiative is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization driven by the goal to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation.