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St. Ignatius farmers market hosts garlic festival

By Karen Peterson / Valley Journal 

People filled the Good Old Days Park to celebrate all things garlic on a cool Friday evening with old-style music playing, soft firefly-like lights glowing, and fresh produce displayed in abundance.

The Mission Falls Market organizers hosted the event. As market master Rose Bear Don’t Walk mingled in the crowd, one woman stopped her and said: “If I’m not mistaken, you’re wearing a garlic dress.” Bear Don’t Walk laughed and confirmed that the poofy-white dress was, in fact, a replica of a garlic bulb. “I use any excuse I can to dress up,” she said.

Bear Don’t Walk said her garlic dress was fairly easy to make. She stuffed flexible white bags with sheep’s wool, arranged them around her waist, and adorned her head with a crown of real garlic bulbs and flowers. 

She looked around at the park filled with people mingling, having dinner, checking out the items for sale, kids playing in the grass, and declared the first annual Mission Valley Garlic Festival “a great success.” Event organizers have already begun planning next year’s event. “When you support local producers, you are supporting your neighbors and helping to ensure local, sustainable food,” Bear Don’t Walk said.

The Garlic Festival was developed for two reasons. The Mission Valley, she said, is a great place to grow garlic. “We really wanted to celebrate the garlic growers,” she said. “We have at least five local producers.” The festival was also a fun way to celebrate the end of the Mission Falls Market season. The last market for the year will be from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 5, at the Good Old Days Park.   

During the festival, Natalie Helser, 13, put her garlic quiche on display. She is one of the vendors with the Kid’s Corner at the market. Children were invited to set up their items during the market season. Natalie sold recycled wool animals and face paintings.

“I made a quiche for the garlic competition,” she said. “People in the market did lots of things with garlic to win a garlic crown. There is a painting of garlic, real garlic, and different food made with garlic,” she said. 

Matthew Whyatt was at the market with a crate of fresh garlic bulbs. He said his wife Anna Elbon was the real farmer in the family at Glacier Tilth Farm in Dixon, but he helps with the crop. “The soil and the climate make this area great for growing garlic,” he said. 

Whyatt said garlic cloves are planted in the fall before the ground freezes. A thick layer of mulch is used to cover the cloves and keep them from freezing. In the spring, the cloves sprout up and grow into bulbs. Farmers usually dig the bulbs up around July, clean them up a bit, and cure them. “We had a really good year for garlic this year,” he said.

The vendors at the market also had things like honey, jewelry, flowers, cheese, and vegetables. George Price was spinning the wheels on his pedal-powered cornmeal grinder that was once a bicycle. He got the idea from a guy in Guatemala. Price picked up a cob full of dried corn, dropped it into the grinder, and the pedals on the bike moved the grinder. He started growing corn at his place in Dixon after retiring from teaching. “You can make all kinds of things with cornmeal,” he said.

Murry Lyda set up a table with information about growing tomatoes. He said the best way to save a few seeds for next year’s crop was to bite into a tomato, and if it’s good, remove the seeds. He recommends that people use a small bag made from screen to wash the seeds, dry them, and then, store them in the screen bag to protect them from critters.

Cale Nittinger of Ploughshare Farm in Moiese set “a little of everything” out at the market. He had corn, squash, garlic, and other vegetables. “We’ve said adios to the beans for the season and started harvesting fall crops.”

He also said the “light soil” in the area was great for growing garlic. He added that mixing compost into the soil was the trick to getting a good harvest. He takes the vegetables from the farm to several different markets during the season. He said the St. Ignatius market was doing well.

“They’ve got a great community base,” he said. “I’ve seen markets come and go, and I think this one has the potential to really grow and continue.” 



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