This is the first season Sue Kost set up a table at the Missoula Winter Public Market to sell her hollowed gourds and baskets made of woven pine needles. She said the baskets are popular in the Carolinas on the East Coast, but she first saw them at a craft fair in Kalispell years ago.
“Eventually I decided I needed a new hobby that didn’t cost me an arm and a leg,” Kost said.
All of her baskets are made with ponderosa pine needles from her 20-acre property in Huson. She said after she collects the needles, she soaks them to make them pliable before working them into a coiled shape to make the basket.
“I have a tree, just one tree, that gives me 11-inch needles,” Kost said.
The Missoula Winter Public Market, which runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in the Hive building at 800 S. Third St. W., is now midway through its second year.
While Kost operated a table at the winter market intermittently through the end of 2015, she said she is committed to being there every week for the rest of the season. She is also considering having a booth at one of the summer markets this year.
“It just depends on how well I do here and if I have enough time to make enough things to sell,” Kost said.
Melody Anderson and her daughter, Savanna, were among the crowd of customers who visited the market Saturday. By the time they were ready to leave, Anderson had a bag over her shoulder filled with carrots, potatoes and eggs. She said they come to the market twice a month mainly to buy food, but wander past the craft tables as well.
“There’s no reason you can’t be buying at least some local produce all year,” Anderson said.
Franco Salazar, who also helped start the summer Clark Fork Market under the Higgins Avenue Bridge, is one of the founders of the Missoula Winter Public Market.
“Basically, it was comprised of vendors of the summer markets who wanted to keep going and have a place to sell year-round,” he said.
Bob Ranney is one of the Clark Fork Market vendors who sets up at the winter market, laying out baskets of onions, potatoes and squash from his company, Fialky Farm in Dixon. He said the first item to run out at his table every week is the garlic.
“People run out of local places to find hard-necked garlic,” he said.
Next year, the winter market will have to move locations, as the Missoula International School has announced plans to buy the property and tear the building down to construct a new campus there. Salazar said he had a brief discussion with the school’s administration, and said he is hoping to be able to find a way to work with them to have the market come back once the new building is finished.
“This year won’t be affected though. We’ll still be here every Saturday through April 23,” Salazar said.