Fondy Market offers fresh food to city folks, initiates new farm
For 80 years, The Fondy Market has offered fresh food to people living on Milwaukee's North Side – and beyond – from local organic and traditional farms. It began in the 1930s on 29th and Center Streets, and in 1980, moved to its current location on 22nd and Fond du Lac Avenue.
The market, located in a covered, open-air structure, features the farm goods of 24 local farmers as well as crafts, prepared foods and bakery items from local vendors.
Fondy officially opens Saturday, June 25 and is then open for business four days a week: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. From Nov. 1 to Nov. 19, the market is open on Saturdays only.
"Fondy purposely chose to be open four days a week to remain accessible, since access to food – or lack thereof – is a serious issue for many central-city families," says Nancy Ketchman, Fondy's interim operations director and business development consultant. "I love that when I run out of greens or tomatoes, I can just hop in my car on a Sunday or Tuesday afternoon and run to the Fondy. I don't have to worry about 'stocking up' because the market is only open Saturdays."
Saturday, June 25 -- opening day -- will feature the 4th Annual BBQ Cook-Off that will give away $1,000 in prizes to the top grillers. Go here for more information on how to enter this contest.
The Fondy Market will host two other special events this summer. The Greens Throw Down on Saturday, July 23 offers a top prize of $250 going to the creator or the best dish of greens, and on Sept. 10, Haymarket Days, a Fondy Market tradition, celebrates the history of the market with a watermelon seed-spitting contest, cooking demonstrations and more.
Every Saturday, which is the liveliest of the four days that the market is open, the market offers a Taste The Season cooking booth with cooking demos, canning classes and samples, as well as a youth booth with fun activities for kids and live music from local artists.
According to executive director, Young Kim, because of inclement weather, the growing season began about three weeks later than usual this year, which is challenging to farmers and limits what they have to sell at this point.
"Everyone is working really hard to catch up," says Young. "But farmers are the most optimistic people in the world. They expect the worst and hope for the best."
This spring, the market started The Fondy Farm in Port Washington. The 80-acre farm offers low-income farmers an opportunity to sign an affordable, long-term lease, receive technical and marketing expertise and sell their produce at the Fondy Farmers Market.
The Fondy farmers were spending between $250 and $370 per acre at other farms, but at the Fondy Farm, they only pay $150 per acre. Plus, they are able to learn more about organic farming and sustainable practices from the Fondy staff as well as share equipment if need be.
"It's a lot easier to share a tractor when you're on the same plot of land," says Kim.
This season, six farmers joined the Fondy Farm and most of them are Hmong.
"They are some of the most talented farmers I have ever met," says Young. "They can grown anything, anywhere. A seed doesn't know it can't grow here."
Gene Brehmer owns a farm near Hartford, and he and his family have held down the same corner of the Fondy Market since it opened in 1980. Prior to that, his mother, who started working the market at age 17 and recently passed away, worked at the original location on 29th and Center.
"Mom was helping us pick up until last fall," says Brehmer, who is currently selling organic strawberries and herb and jalapeno plants.
Ketchman says Fondy debunks the myth that central city families aren't interested in fresh, healthy food.
"In this very racially divided city, I think there's an assumption that because most farmers markets are visited primarily by relatively affluent white residents, that lower-income central city, minority residents aren't interested. But when you come to Fondy, you see that simply isn't true," says Ketchman.
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