North Dakota wine can be made of…

a) rhubarb

b) raspberries

c) strawberries

d) all of the above

If you guessed D, you are absolutely right! After arriving at the end of our luncheon time, my first conversation was with Merleen Gussiaas, of Carrington, ND. Marleen and her husband, Bruce, have a delicious dilemma –

They planted 3,000 – yes, you read that right, that is Three Thousand – rhubarb plants in 2007. Bruce laid down the mulch and cut X’s in it, and dug the holes; Merleen planted about “99.5% of those plants.” When she was done, she was a bit sore.

But not sore are the people who taste their rhubarb wine – which comes in a few varieties, including, of course, the pairing with strawberry. Chocolate-cherry is another flavor I’d love to try. Offering tours of Merleen’s extensive flower gardens, hosting wine tastings in their commercial kitchen made especially for the wine-making aspect of their operation, and marketing their wine regionally keep the couple busy. They have enlisted the help of family, including some of their older grandchildren, in harvesting the many, many, many (can you imagine? 3000 plants, ya’ll!) rhubarb stalks.

So, here’s the dilemma – how to get this luscious, uniformly chopped (by local employees), freezer-packaged yumminess into the hands of those who would use it to make a 9 X 13 cake (each package has 5 cups, just the perfect size!) –

Merleen told me that part of the reason why they’re attending is to find out more about how to get connected with Farmer’s Markets in a profitable way. Round-trip gas cost from Carrington, costs associated with the processing of the rhubarb — how can they sell their wares and make it all work out – and make a living?

I encouraged Merleen to think about being first to market in the spring. We’re sick of the long, drab brown/white winter, and hungry for fruit! Hungry for color! Hungry for a first taste of what’s to come…

Here’s my question, for Fargo area residents: Would you buy a 5-cup package of rhubarb from Merleen? Let her know she’s got options in Fargo! You can type in a comment, or send her an email through the beautiful websites that showcase their wares:  Dakota Sun Gardens (www.dakotasungardens.com and http://www.dakotasungardenswinery.com/)

I’m looking forward to discovering more stories of farmers and hobbyists doing creative things to help us all get connected with great, healthy food!

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