Location: Fennimore, Wis.
Items offered: Organic eggs and produce, jams and jellies, pickled vegetables, pecans, cranberries
Products sold at: Dubuque Winter Farmers Market, Jo Daviess Local Foods
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FENNIMORE, Wis. — As winter approaches, the fruits of Walter Hammerand’s labors are tucked carefully into various nooks and crannies of his Fennimore home.
On a brisk November morning, he descended the stairs to a crowded basement, where boxes of raspberry jelly sat on an end table and baskets of onions and potatoes filled a large closet. Behind another door, shelves were stuffed with jars of pickled vegetables, such as cucumbers and Brussels sprouts.
“I’ve got acorn squash, pie pumpkins and this here is a winter blush squash — a new type of squash for me this year,” he said, plucking the pale pink vegetable from a bag at his feet.
Hammerand, 75, is the proprietor of Hammerand Farm. He sells organic produce, preserves, pickled vegetables and more at Dubuque Winter Farmers Market and through the online market Jo Daviess (Ill.) Local Foods, and he visits summer markets in Postville and Waukon, Iowa.
“I’m alone here, and I mostly sit around the house alone all day, so for me, the market is kind of like a social gathering,” he said. “I’m not in it for the money. I do it more as a hobby and to visit with customers.”
Hammerand grew up on a farm near Sherrill, Iowa, and from a young age, he helped his father transport produce to sell at various markets in Dubuque.
“My dad hauled to Dubuque, and my grandfather, and my dad’s grandfather may have hauled before him,” he said. “It’s been over 100 years that my family has been doing direct marketing in Dubuque.”
Hammerand and his late wife, Dorothy, who died in 2021, lived and farmed for years on a property north of Lancaster. Their daughter and her husband now work the Lancaster farm, and Walter has a 2-acre garden at the Fennimore residence he and Dorothy purchased 12 years ago.
For years, Hammerand sold organic vegetables and eggs for Organic Valley, an organic food brand and independent cooperative of organic farmers based in La Farge. He remains involved as an alumnus of the cooperative, and proudly sports a T-shirt that states “I’m your farmer” with the Organic Valley logo on the sleeve.
When Dubuque Winter Farmers Market launched in 2007, the Hammerands were among the original vendors.
“They started out in the B & G (automotive) building, and you had to wear coveralls and insulated boots,” Hammerand recalled.
The market then spent years in the former Colts Center on Central Avenue before moving first to the Roshek Building lobby in 2019 and then to its current location at Kennedy Mall in 2020.
Even into the depths of winter, Hammerand will bring carrots, potatoes, garlic, squash, onions and cabbages to the Dubuque market. He grows much of the produce, and the food he purchases from other growers is organic and locally or regionally grown, with few exceptions.
“I go to Missouri and get pecans and crack them,” he said, opening the door of a refrigerator in his garage to display bags of shelled pecans ready for sale.
Alongside the nuts were bags filled with ruby-red cranberries. Hammerand said he had prepared 90 pounds of cranberries this fall and sold 60 pounds already, but he expected the fruit would run its course by the end of November.
“Cranberries are kind of a dead horse after Thanksgiving,” he said.
Beyond the produce, Hammerand sells items such as the pickled vegetables, which range from dill pickles, sweet pickles and bread and butter pickles to beets, asparagus, green beans and more. He also offers a vast array of jams and jellies, with raspberry and strawberry being the best sellers.
For years, Walter and Dorothy sold a variety of baked goods at the market, though he has cut down on those products lately. However, he sells homemade doughnuts, produced with almost all organic ingredients.
“I’ve got a few people that are hooked on my doughnuts, and they look for them every week,” he said.
Trevor Budewitz, of Dubuque, said he stops by Hammerand’s stand at the winter market most weekends. On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, he had picked up some carrots and garlic to use in making soup.
“It’s nice that he grows his produce locally, and whatever he doesn’t grow, he gets somebody else to grow locally,” he said. “Most of the stuff is organic, too, so he doesn’t spray with a lot of pesticides.”
For customer Taylor Tado, of Peosta, Iowa, Hammerand’s cheerful, polite manner is as much of a draw as the potatoes she purchases from him every week.
“The potatoes are so good, and he has a great price for them, but mostly it’s just about the company,” she said. “He’s just a very nice gentleman and great to talk to.”