Candied jalapeños, homemade peanut butter, pens carved out of corn husks and children’s face masks are just a few of the unique finds available at the Lonsdale Farmers Market.
Brenda Hergenroder, owner of Cakes by Brenda and the coordinator of the Lonsdale Farmers Market this year, organized the market outside the Whistle Stop Tavern and Grill. Vendors began selling their products the first Friday in June and plan to continue as long as the weather holds out, likely until October. Between 10 and 15 vendors set up their booths from 4 to 7 p.m. every Friday.
Hergenroder reported busy, steady traffic like previous summers. Vendors already distance themselves apart, so following social distancing protocol is a natural practice.
“Everyone is behaving; everyone knows to stay back,” Hergenroder said. “All the vendors have sanitizer and wipes out. If we handle money, we know to sanitize.”
Dori Vikla, owner of Vikla Farm and Greenhouse, agreed that traffic has been steady throughout the weeks.
“It’s nice to see a lot of people coming out, and social distancing, of course,” Vikla said. “We’ve heard a lot of positives about the location being very accessible.”
A number of products available at the market are either homegrown or homemade and serve a variety of household functions.
With a state mask mandate in place, Vicki King’s products were selling like hot cakes July 31. A widow and a retired nurse, King kept herself busy during the pandemic by sewing face masks out of quilting fabric. Now, she sells her masks at the market each week. Her sizes range from “itty bitty” to adult and feature sports logos, cartoon characters, and other fun patterns.
Alexa Calliguri and her grandfather, Marlin Anderson, also used their crafting skills to make their items. Anderson has made woodwork products for about 40 years and passed his knowledge to Calliguri. Together, they sell handmade objects that range from cribbage sets to cutting boards. One of the most intricate items Calliguri learned how to carve is a pen made out of a real corn cob.
The youngest vendor at the Lonsdale Farmers Market is Estela Hoffard, 10, who began selling her own watercolor canvas paintings this year. Her dad brought her to one of the first Lonsdale Farmers Markets this summer and encouraged her to complete about one dozen paintings before setting up her own booth.
Hoffard said most of her ideas come from her own imagination, but sometimes things around her spark inspiration. One painting of a cactus represents Arizona, where she used to live.
“I like to use watercolors because you can make different shades of one color,” said Hoffard. “Sometimes I start with a pencil.”
Nicole Tyrell, a Young Living Essential Oils independent distributor from Montgomery, brings not only her company products to the market but also sells her own homemade bug spray — a best seller in Lonsdale — and plant juice. Other popular items include cannabidiol (CBD) oil and focus rollers that contain calming oils.
Mariah and Ben Bryant are also about natural products, but they put their emphasis on homemade peanut butter. Their company, The Whole Oat, offers peanut butter samples and jars of a variety of consistencies and flavors at the Lonsdale Farmers Market, along with snack bars, granola packs and several body products.
Laurie and Rodney Gentry often surprise their customers with their main offering: candied jalapeños. The treat originated in Texas, where Laurie learned how to make her own after she met Rodney in San Antonio. Now, they sell their products by the jar under the name Laurie’s Cowboy Candy. According to Laurie, the candied jalapenos go well on burgers, pizzas, and even desserts.
“Surprisingly, ‘Minnesota nice’ has embraced it,” Laurie said. “They are pepper people … It’s really fun to see people’s expressions when they say they don’t like peppers, and then they try it and walk away with a jar.”
In Minnesota, one in three third-graders struggle with reading, and two out of five fourth- through eighth-graders struggle with math, according to AmeriCorps Minnesota.
Tutors through Minnesota Reading and Math Corps help close the achievement gap for these students, and that need has become all the more important as schools transition to hybrid and distance learning modules.
“There’s always a bit of a ‘summer slump’ in reading and math retention after students have been away from the classroom,” Reading Corps and Math Corps Managing Director Sadie O’Connor said in a press release. “But the disruptions to school schedules and shift to distance learning due to the COVID-19 crisis could result in even greater gaps. Reading Corps and Math Corps are proven to be highly effective in closing those gaps, and helping students gain skills for success in school and beyond.”
Ryan Barlow, Minnesota Reading and Math Corps recruiter, said Nerstrand Elementary School has the highest need for tutors in southern Minnesota this year.
“Last year we had two excellent tutors serving [in Nerstrand], and this year we don’t have any,” Barlow said. We’re looking for a full-time literacy tutor and a part-time math enrichment tutor.”
Waterville Elementary School and schools within the Tri-City United school district also have tutor openings for the fall. TCU Lonsdale, Montgomery and Le Center elementary schools each have an opening for an elementary literacy tutor for kindergarten through third-grade, and TCU Montgomery Elementary also needs a math enrichment tutor for grades four and five.
Elementary literacy tutors generally meet with students one-on-one to assist them in areas particular to their literacy levels while math enrichment tutors often work with two students at a time.
“Beyond just focusing on literacy and math skills, we’re really building relationships and confidence,” Barlow said of the AmeriCorps Minnesota tutoring model. “ … A lot of students aren’t getting that attention at home.”
Teachers determine whether or not students would benefit from tutoring sessions based on their benchmark scores in literacy and math at the beginning of the school year. Tutors first work with students whose scores fall just below the benchmark and then focus the majority of their term on students who need a bit more help. Using an internal database system, which they will learn to use in their training, tutors track students’ progress. Examining the data will help both teachers and tutors determine the appropriate interventions to use with each student.
“Our goal is to get students up to speed as quickly as possible,” Barlow said. “We know from our research that our programs are even more effective for students who are struggling even more.”
In elementary literacy tutoring sessions, students in the lower grades learn letter sounds while older students develop their reading comprehension and participate in duet reading with their tutor. The need for one on one tutors is greater this year than others, said Barlow, because the pandemic disrupted school structures in the spring.
Any tutor who signs up for the program needs to prepare for possible school closures or reopenings associated with the coronavirus pandemic and commit to serving students their entire term, whether it’s one semester or the full year. Barlow said the lengthy rehiring process makes it difficult to replace tutors that drop out of the program.
“I would say for this year specifically, flexibility is going to be number one because it’s not a normal year,” Barlow said. “If [schools] do distance learning, [tutors are] going to be doing distance learning.”
Abby Donkers, who served as a Reading Corps tutor at Faribault’s Jefferson Elementary last year, applied to serve in the program after college to gain more experience with children before pursuing her dream job — to become a 4-H program coordinator. She recommends the service program to recent college graduates who aren’t quite sure about their career paths, enjoy working with children and want to give back to the community.
“I loved working with the kids and seeing the diversity Faribault has to offer and the different aspects of AmeriCorps,” Donkers said. “I really enjoyed it last year, so I’m actually doing it again this year.”
U.S. citizens or foreign national resident aliens who are 18 or older and have a high school diploma or General Education Degree equivalent are qualified to apply for Minnesota Reading and Math Corps tutor positions.
Tutors are paid a biweekly allowance to serve in the program and also receive an education award at the end of their year long term, which they may use to pay off their student loans or put toward tuition for furthering their education. Full-time tutors may enroll in free health insurance plans.
The first application deadline for the program is Sept. 7 with a placement deadline of Sept. 11. Prospective tutors who submit their application after the first deadline and by Sept. 11 will be placed by Sept. 27. Tutors who were unable to apply for the fall, or if they want to serve for half a year, may begin Nov. 1 or Jan. 10. All positions end June 19.
“We’ve already hired 1,076 tutors in the state, and we’re still in need of probably 600 more tutors throughout the state,” Barlow said. “That’s such a big number that it’s really impressive when I tell folks that. So many people are just coming together to help students improve their literacy and math throughout the state.”
A school supply distribution and charity golf fundraiser are on the calendar for Lonsdale Area Food Shelf this month, with minor adjustments to both annual causes.
Several weeks ago, LAFS volunteers reached out to current clients to track students in need of school supplies for the fall. Thirty-five students were registered for Project Supply Our Students (PSOS), an annual effort hosted at the food shelf each August. Distribution will take place in a drive-up fashion on Thursday, Aug. 13 for those who registered.
Volunteers purchased supplies based on last year’s school supply lists and gathered basic materials, like pencils, notebooks, glue sticks and highlighters, all packed into quality backpacks. Since many schools haven’t yet posted their official supply lists, volunteers used a “best guess scenario” to determine the most appropriate supplies for each age.
Tami Heimer, LAFS executive director, reported all sponsorships for PSOS have been covered thanks to businesses that came forward the first full week of August. The program was fully funded by local businesses and community members.
No pandemic could put a stop to the Mackethun’s Annual Charity Golf Tournament, a major fundraiser for both LAFS and the Montgomery Salvation Army Food Shelf. The four-person scramble begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 19 at Willingers Golf Course in Northfield. Following the tournament, golfers can transfer to the clubhouse for a dinner and raffle. Outdoor seating and two indoor rooms will allow for social distancing.
Jake Chromy, Mackethun’s Fine Foods store director and coordinator of the charity golf event, reported 18 to 20 teams already registered for the event — a similar count compared to previous years. Participants must register before the start time the day of the event. Due to the pandemic, all registration will be online this year at e.givesmart.com/events/hzm.
Individuals and businesses still have time to donate silent auction items or cash to the event or offer sponsorships. Donations can be mailed or delivered to: Mackenthun’s Annual Charity Golf Event 851 Marketplace Drive, Waconia, MN 55387 Attn: Amber Horn. Items will also be collected at the Aug. 19 tournament.
Last year, Chromy said the tournament raised approximately $4,000 for both individual food shelves. Heimer said any dollars LAFS collects from the golf tournament go to the general fund, for minor expenses but mostly food for clients.
While PSOS and the charity golf tournament remain August priorities, the biggest annual fundraiser for LAFS, Hunger Uncorked, was canceled this year due to circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.
Hunger Uncorked is typically held at Next Chapter Winery in New Prague every September, but social distancing guidelines present barriers in hosting the event as usual. The fundraiser, which began nearly four years ago, usually includes a silent and live auction plus live music. Aside from social distancing matters, Heimer feels it’s the wrong time to request donations from businesses that lost revenue during the pandemic.
At this time, Heimer said she isn’t sure how LAFS will redeem the revenue Hunger Uncorked usually collects.
“Monetary donations of course are always welcomed and at this point it’s probably the best choice with less handling of food products between different people,” Heimer said. “We’re not turning away food donations, but we would prefer to see the monetary donations at this time.”