Gabriel Roy shows off the castle he built for judging at the Mabel Simple Living Farmers Market on Saturday. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Gabriel Roy shows off the castle he built for judging at the Mabel Simple Living Farmers Market on Saturday. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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It has been said one is never sure what will be offered each Saturday morning at the Mabel Simple Living Farmers Market. Saturday, July 5, was no exception.

Area children participated in a "castle building contest" sponsored by vendor Dave Mack. Mack creates the blocks from scratch at his home in White Bear Lake, Minn.

"I started making toys in the winter," Mack said. "It allows me to stay home with my wife who is fighting cancer."

The toy blocks are not the only thing Mack is able to create with wood. His booth features numerous useful creations made by hand - most notably are wood tablet holders that allow the devices to be "propped up" when viewing them. He has also written several faith-based young-adult novels.

"We were looking for markets to set up at...," Mack added. "We come down every other weekend and do the market while we camp at Hidden Bluffs...it is like coming home."

Mack said he sponsored the contest to inspire area youth. "It keeps imagination going and teaches them (the children) about shapes, foundations and balance and good hand-eye coordination."

The children who participated included Jose Daley, Evie Daly and Gabriel Roy. The three judges were unable to decide the winner so they made a deal with Mack. They each purchased one set of the blocks from Mack in order for all of the children to be winners and receive their own set of blocks.

Homemade goat cheese

Vendor Katie Wiste of Black Hammer Township is not afraid to share her love for cheese - or goats.

"I love cheese and I love goats," she said. "We (she and her family) always have much more goats milk than we can use - so why not make cheese with it?"

Plenty of samples were offered to market-goers of the various varieties of cheese she has created. Among the varieties she sells include chevre, seta and various aged goat cheeses.

"This is what I really want to do," Wiste concluded as she talked about a trip to Italy where she perfected her art of cheese making.

On-site garden

Bill Newman was anxious to show the one-acre of garden space the market currently uses on the grounds, in which members are currently growing various vegetables.

"It's pretty wet right now...and there are plenty of weeds," Bill said. However, the crops are coming in well at this time.

The members plan to sell a portion of the fresh vegetables grown in the garden at the market and offer the remainder to the Mabel Food Shelf.

"Being able to show that you can go out, pick your dinner and in 10 minutes have a meal is phenomenal," Bill added about the educational opportunities with the on-site garden and the farmers market.

The state of the market

Market President Kathy Newman said this year's market is going very well. "More vendors, more people coming out - I think most of the vendors have seen an increase in sales...a lot of strange faces and a lot of repeats (customers). It's been growing quite nicely," she said.

Kathy added that the market has added a few vendors with different kinds of items for sale, which is always a draw.

Weather, overall has been cooperative this year on the days the market has been held, and completed construction on Highway 44 has also been a benefit this year over last year.

Vendors have expanded to offer the market to residents at Green Lea Manor on the fourth Wednesday of each month. The market sets up just outside of the nursing facility and is open to residents and the public.

"We've been just doing it month by month right now, but we will be there the fourth Wednesday in July...it hasn't been a fantastic market but it draws in new customers - and the residents (of Green Lea) just love it," Kathy said.

Many events are in the planning for the remainder of the summer at the market. This coming Saturday, the raffle for the year will be kicked off. Live music, chainsaw carving, child safety seat checks, and recipe demonstrations will follow throughout the month.

One can keep up with events happening at the market by following the Simple Living Farmers Market Facebook page.