KASSON, Minn — First-year cottage food producer Spinler Goods and Greens, run by Natasha and Patrick Spinler, is not about to let gluten intolerance ruin the farmers market.
The father-daughter team currently offers four varieties of microgreens grown by Patrick and a collection of gluten-free baked goods made by Natasha.
According to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Cottage Food Law allows for individuals to make and sell certain non-potentially hazardous food and canned goods in Minnesota without a license. A training must be completed by applicants before registering and selling cottage food. There's a $50 registration fee only if you sell more than $5,000 in a year, but if you sell less than $5,000 in a year, there is no fee.
The idea for the Spinler family business stemmed from a trip to the winters farmers market last year. Natasha, who has celiac disease, grew frustrated with no gluten-free options in the treat category.
"We noticed there's a bunch of baked goods, but none gluten free," Spinler said.
Of course there's plenty of other items at a farmers markets that Natasha said she can enjoy, but nothing that tends to a sweet tooth.
"There's stuff that's good and that's naturally good for you, like carrots, but carrots aren't cookies," she said. "Carrots are good, but they're not cookies."
Natasha, who became an avid baker shortly after she was diagnosed at age 14 with celiac disease, thought if someone was going to fill the gluten-free niche at the farmers market, it should be her.
Surprisingly, Natasha's diagnosis was considered to be an early one, said Patrick Spinler.
"It's one of those things that my family, growing up, we didn't think about (gluten intolerance) at all," he said. "Looking back on my family history, I've got a great uncle who died in his 30s from some unknown gut disease. He certainly had it."
Natasha crafts gluten-free baked goods using her own custom flour mix as a base, in a kitchen that is 100% gluten free.
If you catch her at a market soon, she'll have plenty of Grandma's Good Cookies, which is a recipe inherited from the family at least seven generations ago, adjusted to be gluten free, and blueberry scones, which she said are just the right level of crumbly and chewy.
The comedic and sales skills by both Natasha and Patrick are put on display with each new customer, oftentimes someone who's just curious what's for sale at the stand.
"You look happy, but you'd be happier with a cookie," Natasha said to a little boy with his mom at the May 1 market in Rochester.
Lastly are lemon madeleines, which are equal parts delicate and sweet, a favorite of hers to make and eat.
To sell at farmers markets — specifically the one in Rochester, vendors have to be growers. Cue Patrick, who grows microgreens in their family basement by sourcing heirloom varieties from a West Coast seed company. He said the plants are raised in "organic growth media, with a touch of organic fertilizer" in an indoor greenhouse.
Spinler Goods and Greens sells its Superfood Microgreen Mix — consisting of purple kohlrabi, broccoli, radish, collard and turnip — and its Super Spicy Greens, which has garden cress, triton radish, southern curled mustard, turnip and arugula. Patrick also grows a kale and broccoli mix, which he said are more straightforward flavors.
"Those are more of a mild, tender flavor, so Natasha's favorite," he said.
At the May 8 Rochester Farmers Market, Natasha can be heard telling a customer what can be done with microgreens.
"You can put them anywhere you'd use spinach," she said. "Or just eat them straight, or put them on ramen noodles. My dad puts them on potatoes, but he's crazy."
The reaction the two have gotten at farmers markets makes them think they picked the right lane to pursue.
"It's been lovely," Natasha said. "We've had so many people come and say, 'Wow you've got gluten-free stuff, it's so hard to find.'"
Sharing information and trading tips on how to make gluten-free baked goods has been a high point of the markets for her, she said.
"A lot of people don't know some of the common tips and tricks for (gluten-free goods), because it's like the opposite of normal baking," Spinler said. "There's been a great sense of community."
"I'm just so glad I've had the opportunity to be able to both do something like this that's fun and also helps so many people with this," she said.