first time Young Kim saw Hmong farmers scattering handfuls of seeds in
the fields of the Fondy Farm, he didn’t quite know what to make of
they were crazy," says Kim, who serves as executive director of
the Fondy Farmers Market on Milwaukee’s North Side. "They had
these 10-foot wide patches and they were just throwing seeds
It turns out the
ancient planting practice known as broadcast seeding is ideal for some
crops, including the mustard and collard greens popular among Fondy
Farmers Market shoppers.
"A lot of
our customers come from a Southern cooking tradition, and one of the
things they look for in their collard greens is really wide, big
leaves," says Steve Petro, manager of the Fondy Farm Project.
"By broadcasting you create more surface area for the leaves to
grow into, so the leaves get bigger."
Since the farm
project began in 2011, Kim and Petro and their staff have come to
respect the growing practices of the immigrant farmers who tend the
fields of the 80-acre farm located north of Port Washington.
come from a strong agricultural background," Kim says. "They
are some of the most incredibly talented farmers I’ve ever
year, the Fondy Farm Project harvested 370,000 pounds of fruits and
vegetables, which were sold almost entirely at the Fondy Farmers
Market. The open-air market located at 22nd Street and Fond du Lac
Avenue stands out as an oasis in the urban neighborhood that otherwise
has little access to fresh produce.
which can trace its roots back 95 years, made a commitment to increase
the availability of fresh produce in the city’s North Side
neighborhoods after a 2002 Community Food Security Assessment
concluded there was a high concentration of hunger and reliance on
emergency food pantries in the area.
assessment found that neighborhoods on Milwaukee’s North and South
sides were most insecure," Kim says. "It’s hard to find
staple groceries in these areas and when people do find them, they’re
often up to 25 percent more expensive."
on the North Side of Milwaukee weren’t strangers to the Fondy
Farmers Market, the organization sought to develop programming that
would bring more of a community focus to the market. Today, its
operating season is marked by several annual events, including a BBQ
Cook-off on opening day in June, a Greens Throw Down in July and
Haymarket Days in September, a long-standing celebration that features
a watermelon seed-spitting contest and cooking demonstrations. Open
four days a week from June to October, the market draws 3,000 to 4,000
visitors a week.
the events at Fondy Market are more family oriented. A Taste the
Season booth teaches shoppers how to prepare seasonal fruits and
offers classes on canning and making preserves. There’s also live
entertainment and youth activities, like pumpkin painting and herb
markets can be kind of intimidating," Kim says. "Nothing
comes in a box and you have to know what to do with the produce once
you get it home. It takes some knowledge; those are the conversations
we’re trying to foster."
efforts to connect Milwaukee’s North Side with locally grown food
include the Fondy Market Match, which matches WIC (Women, Infants and
Children) vouchers dollar for dollar. Kim says the Fondy Market also
is one of the few farmers markets in the country that is able to
accept food stamps.
stamps converted from paper to an electronic system in 1998, it forced
farmers markets out overnight because the technology didn’t exist to
read the cards," Kim explains.
Not to be
deterred, the Fondy Farmers Market acquired a wireless handheld food
stamp card reader within a few years of the program’s electronic
conversion in hopes of encouraging low-income shoppers to return to
But the 80-acre
fruit and vegetable farm near Port Washington remains the Fondy Market’s
biggest venture to date to keep Milwaukee neighborhoods stocked with a
steady supply of locally grown produce.
for the Fondy Farm Project is to show the importance of small-scale,
local food on both a local and national scale," Petro says. He
currently oversees a co-op of seven farmers who rent a total of 40
acres on the Fondy Farm.
In addition to
bringing more fresh produce to lower-income neighborhoods, Petro says
the Fondy Farm Project seeks to empower the small-scale farmers who
have traditionally sold their produce at the Fondy Market.
worried about our farmers and whether they were making enough
money," says Kim.
The Fondy Food
Center, the nonprofit that operates both the farmers market and the
farm project, discovered that small growers were paying excessive fees
to rent land – as much as $250 to $370 per acre. And even at those
prices, there was little guarantee the farmers would be given same
parcel the next year.
that most of our farmers had one-year handshake leases," says
||Stephen Petro is
the farm project manager for the Fondy Farm Project in Port
In contrast, the
Fondy Farm Project asks its farmers to sign a three-year lease at a
rate of $150 per acre for a season. In addition to reasonable rent,
growers at the Fondy Farm are given opportunities to learn more about
organic farming and sustainable growing practices.
is to create a secure, economically viable farm
cooperative for small-scale, local immigrant and limited
resource farmers," Petro says. Ultimately, the hope is that the
Fondy Farm project will become a model for similar efforts across the
In addition to
traditional fruits and vegetables like tomatoes, corn and peppers that
shoppers are accustomed to seeing at the Fondy Market, the Fondy Farm
Project is trying its hand at growing recurring crops.
Young Kim is the
executive director of the Fondy Food Center which included the
farm in Port Washington and the farmers market on Milwaukee's
past, the one-year leases prevented our farmers from establishing
longer-yielding crops," says Kim, who noticed a lack of perennial
produce like rhubarb, asparagus and berries when he became director in
To boost the
variety of fruits and vegetables the farmers market currently offers,
the Fondy Farm has planted apple, pear and plum trees and ever-bearing
strawberry plants, which bear fruit all summer long.
help with our goal of increasing the amount of fresh, nutrient-dense
food available to residents on the North Side of Milwaukee," Kim
To learn more
about the Fondy Farmers Market and the Fondy Farm Project, go to