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Local author talks affordability, diversity and freshness at Milwaukee farmer's market

Posted at 5:19 PM, Aug 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-08 22:21:23-04

MILWAUKEE — Bay View-based author Kristine Hansen says now is the time to be shopping at Milwaukee farmer's markets.

“I think it's really a hidden secret -- farmers markets are super affordable, especially in August, that's the height of the harvest," said Hansen.

Her new book, Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets: Tours, Trails and Attractions, came out in late July.

Hansen's book features Fondy Farmer's Market, which first opened in 1917. It's been operating at 22nd and Fond Du Lac for 40 years.

Right now, most of the products at Fondy range from $1 to $5. Though some, including a bulging basket of green beans, sell for up to $7.

“It’s cheaper [than grocery stores] and they put the greens a lot. It’s very fresh. It comes from the garden, and you eat directly," said Jimmy Mukwa, a Fondy shopper.

He visits with his family weekly to buy specialty African greens he uses to cook recipes from back home.

TMJ4 checked out several city supermarkets on Sunday for a simple price comparison. And prices, on average, were similar, or slightly higher or lower for products like potatoes, tomatoes and onions.

Vendor Chaeng Mua, from Laos, grows her produce for the market in Caledonia.

“They [her customers] say it’s OK [prices]. It’s not too high. It’s not too low," said Chaeng. "But some people, they come, and they ask how can you sell so much, cannot finish the basket."

Chaeng also carries squash blossoms, which are light orange with green stems.

“It's really hard to find squash blossoms in farmer's markets in our area, and I immediately noticed this because it's unique," said Hansen.

Chaeng likes to stir-fry the blossoms. But they can be cooked in a number of ways, including stuffed and fried, breaded and fried or placed on a sandwich raw like you would a piece of lettuce.

Katie Hassemer, Fondy's Director of Farmers Markets, says the market is also home to several Hmong vendors.

"You see a lot of products that you're familiar with, but also new ones that you can experiment with if it's not something you're familiar," said Hassemer. "Some of the refugee populations in Milwaukee come and get it solely here at the Fondy Farmers Market because they know they can find stuff that they're used to cooking, and it's culturally significant to them."

For Hansen, she said one of the goals of her book was to bring light to the fact that farmers can come from all over.

“I really wanted to show that the face of the farmer isn't what we think," she said. "And while it is a predominantly white culture of farmers, here at this market, you see a lot of different ethnicities represented.”

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