Building community starts with food

Did you grow up on a farm? 

I grew up in rural Wisconsin and people are surprised to learn this does not automatically equate to growing up on a farm. We were, however, part of the Eat Local movement before it was a thing. 

With a small, family-owned cheese factory and later, a butcher shop, we knew where the food was coming from and going to. In order to round out our diets, we grew gardens the size of a south Minneapolis yard filled with vegetables to last all winter. This is how I grew up. 

When I found out the Nokomis community was hosting a farmers market, I was interested.  When I found out Neighborhood Roots was looking for board members to help shape and grow the Nokomis Market, it was natural for me to want to get involved. Neighborhood Roots and the Nokomis Market aligned with how I grew up thinking about food and how I want my kids to grow up thinking about food.  

Here’s why I support the market:

Know who grows: With small businesses in the family, we knew where the ingredients were coming from. The meat wasn’t coming from a store (OK, sometimes it was), it was coming from the farmer up the road.

When my grandma made Sunday dinners, it was from her garden bounty.  As a kid, I liked knowing where the food came from. I liked helping harvest the vegetables and pick the apples for the pie.

I get the same involvement at the markets. I can visit with the farmers and talk about growing seasons. We chat about what is in season and what to do with it. I’ve tried new vegetables that didn’t know existed and found new favorites. I know the farms are as passionate about good food as I am. 

That shared passion motivates me to get on my bike on Wednesday evenings and head to the market.  Even if I only need one thing, I like to browse and talk about what is new and what will be there next week. 

Support small and local: Small business is hard work. Food-related small business presents unique challenges. While our family-owned cheese factory closed its doors 30 years ago, the butcher shop is still in business. 

I know how much work goes on behind the scene to make fresh, local goods available — whether it is flowers, meat, eggs, veggies, fish or honey. The power of community support to help the small, local scene grow is tremendous. Do I sometimes wait it out until Wednesday to get my produce or meat? Yes, I do. I respect the time, effort and care that goes into the finished products at the market. And I love the local honey! 

Building a community: At the first Nokomis Market last summer, I bumped into my cousin.  She also grew up in rural Wisconsin and now lives within 15 blocks of me. I rarely see her even though we live so close.  However, I know at least a couple times I will bump into her at the Nokomis Market.   It is a community event and a family event. 

We often choose to ride our bikes as a family to grab our goods and dinner at the market.  Sometimes we plan to meet friends there too. Summer is busy, especially with kids, but meeting at the market accomplishes so many tasks at once. It brings people together, not just the neighbors in the community but the growers, small business owners and musicians too.  

Knowing where your food comes doesn’t have to be a complex cause. It started for us on the block we live on, sharing food from our small gardens amongst the neighbors. The kids love to go out and pick the beans and peppers. 

The Nokomis Market is an extension of that. The kids like to sample the fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they try things they never have before. And they are encouraged to so do by the passionate folks that grew the food.

While the Nokomis Market only runs through Sept. 30 this year, our Fulton and Kingfield markets will be open through Oct. 24 & 25.  If you don’t make it, stop by the Neighborhood Roots indoor Winter Markets. Farmers markets and local food aren’t just for summer time. Eat local all year round just like I did when I was a kid.

Karin Broecker has lived in the Nokomis neighborhood for 5 years. She can often be found walking, biking, or running in the neighborhood usually accompanied by some combination of husband, kids and dogs.  By day she is a strategy consultant. At night, she is a master inventor of recipes.