BELOIT - Two new vendors at Beloit Farmers Market have transformed their passions into profitable businesses.
They have each found a niche in the area for new and unique products - homegrown garlic and homemade kombucha. They say the farmers market has helped them catapult their business success, share and educate the public about their healthy products.
Ken Hnilo and Danielle Mizialko and son Gilbert Mizialko Hnilo of Magic Mushroom Kombucha Co., out of Walworth, Wisconsin, and Terri and John Stout of Midwest Gourmet Garlic, of Beloit, tout their wares next to each other each Saturday near The Gantry.
Terri Stout said she was thrilled to get into the market this year with her home-grown garlic. Another vendor had dropped out, opening up a sought-after space where Stout could peddle her Chesnok red, Metechi-purple strip, Italian red, German extra hardy and other special varieties.
Stout's garlic varieties are considered hard neck, which means they not only have a sturdier stem, but also have stronger flavors than their softneck counterparts found in the grocery store. Hard necks peel faster and form a long flowering stem called a scape. Stout has had luck selling scapes at the market and to restaurants who often use them for pesto, stir fries and bruschetta.
Growing garlic was a natural fit for Stout, who always had a passion for gardening. She already had transformed most of her yard into grow beds to cut down on mowing, used rain barrels to collect water and made her own compost bins.
The Stouts decided there was an untapped need for garlic. After researching and learning that garlic is often imported from China, they decided the Stateline Area needed a fresher and more pungent alternative.
She and her husband transformed a quarter acre of their yard into a fragrant garlic oasis. They researched the best ways to grow it, including dipping it in vodka prior to planting.
At Stout's first week at the farmers market, she sold out of scapes. She used the market as a way to chat with customers about garlic's many uses and varieties. Stout plans to continue to educate the public about garlic's many flavors in cooking and will be planting more to sell next year. For more information she said people can visit www.midwestgourmetgarlic.com
Ken Hnilo and Danielle Mizialko and their son Gilbert Mizialko Hnilo, of Magic Mushroom Kombucha Co., say they love sharing the health benefits of their tasty tea at the Beloit Farmers Market.
Kombucha is a fermented tea made using a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, otherwise known as a "scoby," which resembles a flat pancake.
The resulting probiotics produced are believed to improve digestive health and boost immunity. Those who have imbibed on the bubbly concoction say they also reap health benefits such as increased energy and better sleep.
Mizialko said athletes consider it the ultra sports drink, filling up "growlers" or half-gallon containers, with kombucha each week. Some of the most popular flavors sold are unflavored as well as wild blueberry ginger and elderflower lemon or sunshine, a citrus blend.
Although Danielle Mizialko and her family started the business two years ago, she's been making kombucha for 25 years, long before it was trendy.
Danielle said her great-great grandparents from Czechoslovakia had brewed it.
"It's an ancient tonic. Every family would have this on their counter. It was known to give kind of boost of energy and get you through the second half of your day, kind of like coffee or an energy drink," she said. "In Poland, Russia and China, it was known as mushroom tea."
More than two decades ago, a doctor encouraged Danielle Mizialko to make kombucha after she was recovering from a severe illness. She would later make it for her husband and three sons. She also cuts up the scobies and puts them on her skin or in her dog's food.
The scoby is yeast fed by bacteria in its surroundings, and Danielle said, other input.
"It's an interesting culture. It loves music. It sounds strange, but we play classical music and my son practices his music outside of the kitchen. I really believe it supports the health of the scobies we have," she said.
Danielle Mizialko said her favorite part of the business is sharing how important it is for health to introduce regular probiotics to one's diet. She said her customers often report how they are sleeping better and have fewer digestive issues.