A desire to create quality bread is one of the factors that motivates a local baker to provide his services to the community each week. His creations are nothing short of popular. Rob Bjerke is a local artisan baker who has provided his bread and treats at the farmers market for around five years. Bjerke has been making bread and other pastries for well over 15 years. He got his first taste for artisan bread while living in France during his college years. He said upon his return to the U.S. he was curious why the bread wasn’t quite as good. “I almost exclusively ate bread while I was there,” Bjerke said. “I wasn’t a baker yet, I was in college at the time but it did make me curious why there wasn’t good bread like that here.” He got his first opportunity to learn how to bake bread when he helped a friend start a local business in Moscow called Panhandle Artisan Bread Company. After a few years helping to get that company off the ground, Bjerke then went on to work as the manager of the bakery at the Moscow Food Co-op before moving to St. Maries with his family. This is Bjerke’s fifth year at the market and his experience in the bread making business shines through not only his creations but also the lines that form at his booth. He said he wasn’t sure at first when deciding to join the market, noting he wasn’t sure if people would be interested. “One day I said I want to try it,” he said. “I baked some bread and sold it all.” To this day, that is a common trend for Bjerke. Those who want specific items from his booth may want to get to the market sooner rather than later as he tends to sell out of almost everything within the first hour or so. Bjerke said the customer favorite at this time are his pretzels though he also provides scones, croissants and a variety of breads. He said his favorite item to bake and eat is his sourdough bread, noting the process of making it is what compels him the most. He puts in plenty of work each week to make sure his booth is filled. Bjerke said he starts early Thursday before the market and takes minimal breaks to ensure his bread is fresh and ready for the market. “I put in about 32 hours in a 48 hour span,” Bjerke said. “The bread has got to be fresh so you have to get up early.” Over his years at the market, Bjerke said he has seen a significant growth in participation, adding its not just about selling his bread but the sense of community he gets when interacting with fellow market-goers. He said this year on average they get 20 to 30 vendors each week with a core group of 15 who attend every week. You can catch Bjerke and more vendors at the Farmers Market from 3 to 6 p.m., every Friday at Mullan Trial Park.
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