Making Good Food Available for All: Fondy Farm Tour

For farmer’s market aficionados who live in Southeastern Wisconsin, the Fondy Farmer’s Market is a well known venue.  The oldest producer-only market in the area, it recently hit its 97th birthday, marking nearly a century of serving the Milwaukee community.  More importantly, it addresses one of today’s real issues–how to make good food available to all. 

Large Turnip

Making Good Turnips Available to All

Many people would prefer to eat fresh, local, sustainably grown food, but what if fast food is more available and affordable?  Inner city farmers markets have the potential to change this equation. 

Fondy Farm Tour

Fondy Market & Farm – Making Good Food Available

The Fondy Market has been around for decades, but a new component was added in 2011– Fondy Farm.  While the problem of good food availability, accessibility and affordability is well known, food producers face their own special challenges. Fondy Farm, 40 acres of prime farmland just north of Milwaukee, was designed to address these.  Last weekend I had the opportunity to tour the farm in an excursion set up by MKEFoodies

Fondy Farm Manager Steve Petro

Fondy Farm Manager Steve Petro

We began our tour on a tractor, driven by Farm Manager Steve Petro (after some good local beer–this is Wisconin after all).  

Local Beer

Local Beer

During the tour, Fondy Food Center Executive Director Young Kim reflected back on his earlier years with the Fondy Market, when he noticed some troubling trends.

Fondy-Young-Kim

Executive Director Young Kim discusses good food availability challenges

The first concern was a significant drop in the number of producers in the years between 2006 and 2009–difficult economic times for the community to lose part of its food supply.  When he looked into causes, one thing in particular–land and resource availability–stood out.  Many producers farmed leased land which might change annually and be agreed to with a handshake.  He cited a case where the landowner decided to do something different, and the farmer found out in the spring that the land was no longer available.

The second issue was the limited variety of produce–specifically an almost complete absence of perennial crops like asparagus or berries.  The issues were related.  If a farmer was working on leased land with a one year contract or agreement, it wouldn’t make sense to start crops that need over a year to produce. 

Everbearing Strawberries

Everbearing Strawberries

Fondy Farm was established to help address these issues.  With a long term lease on 40 acres of farmland north of Milwaukee, they provide sub-lets to farmers along with irrigation, tractors and consulting.  The only the stipulations are that they grow sustainably and sell their wares at the Fondy Market.  Currently the farm hosts upwards of a dozen farmers.  At about 95% capacity, it is an obvious success.

cheese curds, pickles beets and local artisan crackers

Mid tour snacks of cheese curds, pickles beets and local artisan crackers

Every year Fondy Farm adds capabilities–more mechanization options, better irrigation, etc.  During the tour, ideas for additional farm upgrades came up.  Discussion of possible overnight housing, transportation and refrigeration made it clear that the team will continue to innovate. 

Milwaukee will clearly be better for it.

 *    *    *

Here is some more of the farm …

Fondy-Hops-Production

Hops for Craft Beer

A makeshift scarecrow

A makeshift scarecrow

Fondy-eggplant-berries

Berry sized eggplant used in Asian cooking – gearing products to the market

fondy-cover-crops

Cover crops make sense with sustainable focus

fondy-asparagus

Now growing perennials like asparagus

 

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20 thoughts on “Making Good Food Available for All: Fondy Farm Tour

    1. Inger

      I used to just do my CSAs and garden but have been going to the farmers markets more this year to get specific needs for canning. That’s been a lot of fun!

    1. Inger

      They actually bring the food into the city to sell (though we got samples!) But it was great to see where it comes from and to hear how they are solving some problems!

  1. Ivy Sew

    Hi Inger, what an awesome visit to the farm. I enjoy visiting and buy produce straight from the farm but unfortunately, the chances of visiting farms over here is quite limited. It’s usually quite a distance away from my place. So, when I have a chance going to any plantation or farm, I am sure to buy fresh produce from there. Thanks so much for sharing your visit to the farmers market. Cheers and warmest regards 🙂

    1. Inger

      You’d be in luck with this concept then, since they bring the produce into the city to sell. I think there are a lot of people who can’t get to the farms here too.

  2. Kathy

    Inger, I so enjoyed your trip to the farm. Love all your great photos! I also live in a farming area. Nothing tastes as good as veggies and fruit fresh from the farm! Nice post!

    1. Inger

      I almost never stop in the produce section of the grocery store now. If bananas grew in Wisconsin, it might be never 😉 (except winter of course).

  3. Kathy

    I can’t get over the size of that turnip in the first picture. Now want to go to a Farmer’s Marquette. There’s one 80 miles away in Marquette, but wouldn’t make it before it closed. Maybe next Saturday?

    1. Inger

      Can you believe how quickly winter is coming Kathy? I still want to make one more farmer’s market run before they shut down. We had both better hurry!

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