May 9, 2009
Shrugging off the rain, farmers' market opens
It was cold and raining at 7 this morning, when Jerry and Carol Gresk pulled their truck into the Case parking lot Downtown, and set up their table of flowers and fresh eggs at the farmers' market.
It did not look like an auspicious start for the summer's fresh produce sellers. Farmers were huddled in raincoats and sweaters; customers at first were few and far between.
One of Jerry's first customers said to him, "You gotta be crazy to be out here." Jerry replied, "You gotta be even crazier."
But then the spitting rain let up, the sun came out ... and so did more customers. They found limited offerings on this first Saturday: I saw rhubarb, winter onions and parsnips on display, plus lots of plants and a few bright flowers at the half-dozen stands. Oh, and some homemade muffins and hot coffee.
"Actually, it turned into a pretty good day," said Jerry's wife, Carol, as they noted that all 24 dozen jumbo eggs had been sold, and Mother's Day customers were choosing the more colorful of their flowers.
Jerry and Carol have been doing this for quite a while. They farm 140 acres in Raymond with Jerry's brother. "He raises cash crops like corn and soybeans and beef cattle," said Jerry. "We raise the veggies," Carol chimed in. Jerry, 68, is a retired railroader -- a section foreman for the Canadian Pacific railroad, later the Milwaukee Road, for 43 years in Sturtevant -- and they're both lifelong farmers. Carol was born on a pumpkin farm.
"We started selling Downtown in 1975," Carol said, "When the farmer's market was on Main Street." "Where the Johnson Building is now," Jerry explained. "It's where the movie theatres were," Carol added. She remembered the first movie she'd ever seen at the Rialto: "Giant" with Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson and James Dean.
Then came another wave of customers, buying more flowers. Seven-year-old Caden McCormick, right, carefully showed his dad, Kevin, which ones to get for his mother.
"Definitely worth coming," Carol said as the market wound down. "But that rocking chair will feel good when we get home."