Get Your Winter Fix at The Downtown Green Bay New Leaf Market

By | December 15, 2015
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Gretchen Scmidt and Samuel Vainisi
Gretchen Schmidt and Samuel Vainisi, owners of Eaton Highland Deer Farm in Denmark.

If your palate longs for locally grown produce and products from Northeastern Wisconsin in the depths of winter, the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market presented by Bellin Health will be a welcome shopping trip. Located at the KI Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market offers a unique experience where customers can meet the people growing and producing your food, ask questions, and learn more about their businesses during a season not typical for such interaction.

“The New Leaf Winter Market provides an opportunity for people to come out and purchase locally grown food year round,” said Brehanna Skaletski, marketing and events manager for Downtown Green Bay.

At the New Leaf Winter Market, there is truly something for everyone. Guests will find prepared food, canned food, dry mixes, meats, cheese, hummus and produce. In addition, there is always live music and cooking demonstrations, which take place each week at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

As a festive way to kick off the winter market season as well as provide great shopping opportunities for the holiday season, the Dec. 12 market is considered the Holiday Market and has arts and crafts vendors for one-of-a-kind holiday gift buying. And Santa will be there, too.

If you stop in at the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market, say hello to Keith Mueller, Sweet Dirt Acres of Seymour and take home some produce, farm-fresh eggs and quality meats.

“We sell a lot of eggs…about 50-plus dozen at the indoor market…We keep a greenhouse going as long as we can with a little heat, so we have some greens available during the winter as well as produce we can store like squash, onions, potatoes, and carrots,” said Mueller. “We have produce until we run out and when it is gone, it is gone.”

Sweet Dirt Acres was launched in 2004 and grows produce and livestock using organic practices. “It is a family operation with my wife and daughters…We all pitch together and get the work all done as a family,” Mueller said.

The farm now consists of about five acres of garden and offers free range eggs, broiler chicken, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised pork and elk. Sweet Dirt Acres also offers canned goods and more.

“New Leaf has really worked out nice for us,” said Mueller.“It is a really good opportunity for everybody to get sustainable products. And it is good for the farmers, too,” Mueller said. “When you get a customer base built up and they know where you are coming from, they trust you.”

Another pair of farmers to meet at the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market is Gretchen Schmidt and Samuel Vainisi, owners of Eaton Highland Deer Farm in Denmark between Kewaunee and Green Bay. Schmidt is not shy about sharing all the advantages of eating venison, including its taste and its lean quality for a healthy diet. Their deer farm operation began as a retirement idea and now a 300-head operation.

“My husband went fishing in New Zealand and saw red deer being farmed and thought we should do this when we retire,” Schmidt said. They both are veterinary ophthalmologists (eye doctors for animals). That was 1994 and the rest is history. Red deer are in the elk family and are not native to North America. They are raised not only for their meat but also for their antlers and velvet. “They are sort of the beef cow of the deer world,” Schmidt said. “Any game meat is very lean but if it is farm raised, it won’t have the gamey taste of pine needles or acorn because they are fed well on the best alfalfa and the meat is not aged. Some of the finest restaurants are serving venison and it is almost always farm- raised.”

Dan Olson
Dan Olson, owner of Norsk Farm in Lena. Contributed photo

At the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market, Eaton Highland Deer Farm offers a wide selection of venison products (with a little pork added as well). All the meat is vacuum-packed and frozen.

“We have been there since they started the winter market,” Schmidt said. “People eat more venison in the winter time than in the summer; it is just more of a winter-type meat. The winter market is inside and warm so we said, let’s try it and it turned out to be good.”

Having a good experience is also the case for Dan Olson, owner of Norsk Farm in Lena. It will be his fourth year at the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market and he serves on the Farmers Market committee. He has found the market as another effective avenue to connect customers with his farm and products.

“Especially early on in our business, the Winters Farmers Market was a very important way to meet people. For us, we talked about doing summer farmers markets and we are just so busy in the summer; it is such a large commitment for us to do that. We found that the Winters Farmers Market is a good way to make relationships and meet customers. And it carries over into the summer. They will come out the farm to purchase meat,” said Olson. “It is a good way to expand our customer base in a time that we are not so busy otherwise.”

A seven-generation farm that began in 1887, Norsk Farm is a certified organic dairy farm and meat business. The milk is sold to Organic Valley and the meat is available for purchase in the onsite store at the farm as well as the New Leaf Winter Farmers Market. As you see, the winter market is a great source for organic produce. Waseda Farms, located in Door County with a retail outlet in De Pere, has been a regular for years with an assortment of organic products.

“The Market is a great opportunity for people to shake off cabin fever and support local producers,” said Matt Lutsey, a member of the family-owned and operated farm. “It is a great opportunity for small farmers, producers and artisans to bring their products to market on a small scale and see if they are viable.At the end of the day, the customer will ultimately decide if your product is good.”

“We started off doing the winter markets many years ago when we were much smaller,” he continued. “They gave us a great platform to find our customers and grow our business.”

THE DISH ON THE NEW LEAF WINTER FARMERS MARKET… Located at the KI Convention Center from 8 a.m. to noon on Dec. 12 and 19, Jan 2, 16, and 23, and Feb. 6 and 13. Free Saturday parking is available across the street at the Main Street parking ramp that has a skywalk to the Convention Center. Admission is free. For more information, visit

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