Getting to Know Our Vendors

Spotlight on Havlicek’s Veseli Vrsek Orchard

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

Vendor Denny Havlicek

Vendor Denny Havlicek

Denny Havlicek has been with the Midtown Farmers Market since 2003, he sells apples and honey and has an interesting story.

First, if you’re not Czech, you might not know what Veseli Vrsek means. Well, allow us to clear that up. It means, Happy Hill. As the name of an apple orchard and bee farm, it makes sense.

Havlicek, the third generation Bohemian, planted his first tree in 1984, 15 years before he retired as a special education teacher and school counselor. Today he has 2500 trees (25 varieties) as well as beehives.

He always wanted to get into farming, and wanted something hands on—something he could do without using machinery. Producing apples and honey has turned out to be a perfect combination because the trees need to be cross pollinated by the bees to survive. And apples and honey are a traditional, delicious, wonderful, outstanding, OH MY GOSH SO GOOD food combination.

With so many varieties of produce, Havlicek’s harvest is pretty large and comes as early as July and continues through November—which is helpful because he sells at a few other markets. However, Midtown Farmers Market is his favorite because he’s not just another vendor, he feels appreciated.

Denny has a connection with his customers who like buying direct from the grower. They appreciate knowing his agricultural practices, and the environment in which their food comes from—Veseli Vrsek is like a nature center where frogs, snakes, toads and birds thrive in the woods and prairie grasslands of his property. Healthy produce, healthy environment, happy hill.

Havlicek says, “Being in agriculture is a real joy. I am living my dream.” But he hasn’t done it alone. The Havlicek Orchard has been a classroom for his children and now his grandkids help out on busy market days.

Life is an education. And if doing good gets a person an A, then let’s just say the former special education teacher and counselor turned Midtown Market favorite is an honor roll student.

Spotlight on Pflaum Farms

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

Julie Backes Pflaum, being helped out on a busy market day by her husband Tony Backes

Julie Backes Pflaum, being helped out on a busy market day by her husband Tony Backes

Pflaum Farms have a broad range of produce, including: leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, cucumbers, snap peas, zucchini, carrots, cabbage, onions, tomatoes and corn. Later in the season they’ll offer squash, pumpkins, and other root vegetables. That’s a lot of tasty market treats. But for a family with so much growing experience, it’s no big deal.

The family has been representing good food at Midtown for 12 years.

Julie Backes Pflaum is the friendly face to look for on Saturdays and her brother Mark is the Tuesday regular. If you’re looking for some family tradition at the Market, Julie and Mark are two of three siblings that are fourth generation farmers with a fifth generation of active youngsters learning in the fields right now.

As far as the original farmers marketeers, their parents grew and sold produce at small farmers markets near Lakeville, MN as well as the Minneapolis Farmers Market near downtown—where they have been selling produce for 20 years. But for Julie, this is her Saturday morning home. She said, “The community is good to us and they appreciate us. Everything (we grow) is fresh, we grow it ourselves, it’s hard work and people notice that.”

Another important thing for the Pflaum family is relationships—not just with the land, but also with people. Julie has her regulars with whom she has built friendships. She has folks swing by and ask about family, food and life. It’s a connection that can’t be manufactured—it’s been created and grown at the Midtown Farmers Market.

Spotlight on Winter Goddess Foods

Comfort Food, Made with Intent

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

Nehemiah Williams and market assistant, Mary Ellen Weber

Nehemiah Williams and market assistant, Mary Ellen Weber

Here are a few things you need to know about Winter Goddess Foods.

The owners are spousal super duo, Nehemiah and Terry Williams—Nehemiah and his sidekick, Mary Ellen, are at the Midtown Market each Saturday while Terry holds it down at the Richfield Market.

If you want to know what Winter Goddess Foods is, here’s a pretty good description: they’re purveyors of organic, fair-trade comfort drinks, comfort snacks, and comfort treats, made with intent—without artificial ingredients, chemicals or preservatives.

One might say the two words that best describe WGF are comforting and clean. When it comes to food, those are two ideal words.

Asked about what he meant by “made with intent,” Nehemiah said crafting their products with intent is their secret ingredient. As they prepare the food, they picture customers with smiles on their faces, delighted by what they’re consuming. Made with intent = made to make people feel good.

When asked about the Midtown Farmers Market they, like many, say they love the vibe. It is a family-based, community-centered market. They dig the music and acknowledge that the vendors work well with each other and help out when there’s an opportunity. And when it comes to the people who come to the market to buy their goods and enjoy the day, Nehemiah, Terry and Mary Ellen all agree that the cool people come to Midtown.

In addition to being active in the Farmers Market, Nehemiah and Terry believe they can do more with their passion—which is why they support Second Harvest. The two of them believe no one should go hungry, especially kids. When you stop by WGF, take note of their tip jar. “We collect tips for the Second Harvest Heartland food shelf.  Our company was able to collect enough funds to provide Second Harvest with the ability to serve over 2800 meals to our hungry neighbors in the Twin Cities last year, and we are hoping for an even better effort in 2016.”

Among many of the goods they make, here are a couple of favorites:

  • Wild rice bread made from Native ceremonially harvested wild rice
  • Caramel Moments -Buttery, organic caramels made without corn syrup.

Come and check ‘em out next time you’re at the Midtown or Richfield Farmers Markets. Nehemiah, Terry and Mary Ellen will be there with their comforting, clean food and a desire to help others. Really, what more could you ask for?

Spotlight on Cha Veggies

Family + Food = Midtown Farmers Market

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

A few of the members of the Madison and Kao Cha family

A few of the members of the Madison and Kao Cha family

This family owned operation has been at the market since the beginning, back in 2003—that’s 13 years for all y’all keeping track at home. It started simple enough and the short version of the story goes something like this: Husband and wife Madison and Kao Cha started farming as a hobby, a way to provide their family with fresh vegetables. Then in 2003 their children suggested shifting the hard working hobby into a business. At the time, the oldest was only 20 years old and a freshman in college. Today, all eight children (ages 22-33) have graduated from college and the family business is a fun activity for matriarch, patriarch and their kids, and grandchild—a one-year-old who loves being out in the fields with grandpa.

As a family, and as farmers, they’ve grown with the market. Over the years, the Cha family has responded to shopper’s requests by expanding their offerings —including vegetables the Chas have never heard of. Along with discussing their product line, the family enjoys interacting with customers as they walk by and eye the fresh produce. And it goes both ways. The Cha family has noticed customers like interacting with suppliers directly, knowing where their food comes from so they’re also interested in chatting with them about their product. Got a question? Ask ‘em.

One of the big reasons the Cha family likes Midtown Farmers Market because of its emphasis on community, which makes sense—three generations of family knows all about what it means to be a part of a great community.

Spotlight on Sin Fronteras Farm and Food

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

Eduardo Rivera and his wife, Samie Ardito Rivera

Eduardo Rivera and his wife, Samie Ardito Rivera

Eduardo Rivera spent the first ten years of his life in central Mexico. It was there he was introduced to farming. His family grew food in a garden at home, and his grandfather worked at a larger farm nearby. Today, in Minnesota, he runs his organic farm partially to help his young daughter have ties between her roots in Mexico and her life in the United States.

His daughter isn’t the only person Eduardo is trying to connect with.

One of Eduardo’s goals is to cultivate Latino-owned agriculture, as well as provide access to good food, cooking skills and products grown thoughtfully. He says, “we are just visitors on this planet and we must minimize the impact we make.”

Here’s how Eduardo takes care of this precious resource: he works with the land to better the soil; he plants cover crops and rotates crops. He is certified organic, minimizes trash and doesn’t use plastic. He cited this UN report on the role small-scale farmers can play in transforming the way the world manages the food supply.

He choses to be a part of Midtown Farmers Market partially because of its proximity to Latino neighborhoods—Rivera wants to see more Latin-Americans shopping at the market, taking advantage of the wonderful fresh foods. The reason he grows a lot of his produce is because it’s central to Latino cooking—for example: 5 varieties of hot peppers, 5 varieties of sweet peppers, roma tomatoes, carrots, radishes, calabaza, cilantro.

Overall, customers, market shoppers and restaurant chefs all love the pristine quality of the food and the care he puts into growing his produce. He partners with Centro Tyrone Guzman—where he’s on the board and his daughter attends Montessori school—in education projects which bring young people to his farm to experience what its like to be involved in agriculture as well as harvest and cook healthy food. This is Eduardo’s third year at the market and he also does a CSA and sells to restaurants including Surly, The Creamery, Birchwood and food co-ops.

Come and find Eduardo Rivera and you’ll find a heritage brand and food ripe for creating a flavor unique to his past and all of our present.

 

Spotlight on Tootie’s Southern Style Peanuts

The kindest one of a kind

by Eric Forseth and Anne Knauff, MFM Advisory Committee Members

TootieThe owner, founder, sparkplug, driving force and delightful man under the Tooties tent is Tootie Martin. Yes, that’s his real name. His dad named him after his great grandma who died the year Tootie was born. He feels the obligation to live up to such an important and interesting name—and if you’ve met him, you know he’s lively enough to back it up and then some.

His mission is to make you smile. His secondary mission is to introduce northerners to boiled peanuts as a delicious and healthy snack. What is a boiled peanut? Well, it’s a legume just like garbanzos or kidney beans, boiled and made delicious—it’s hard to describe, but Tootie’ll give you a sample if you ask.

If boiled peanuts are the main course at Tooties, you can get a side of passion. The man wants to help others and hopes to grow the business to the point that he can provide jobs to folks in Minnesota who need to catch a break. Martin grew up in poverty, in Panama City Florida with a single mom. Today Tootie is married with kids, has earned his MBA and is Director of Development at Concordia University.

Martin has been a staple at the market since 2009 and enjoys Midtown Farmers Market for its diversity of vendors and shoppers—and customers enjoy Tooties product because it’s a southern thing, unique to Midwest. Stop by his tent sometime. If you have a hard time finding it, look for a yellow top and a big bright smile underneath it. That’s where you’ll find Tootie Martin and his southern goodness.

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