I have been part of the Mill City Farmers Market in Minneapolis as a vendor/artist since 2011 and always wanted to find out more about how it started, what was so special about this market.
I adore this market and don’t mind waking up at 5 am, excited to meet my community. However, I know that every Saturday there is so much happening that I am not even aware of, being too busy at my booth.
1. Tell us about how you started doing what you do as a chef/restaurateur?
I grew up in a poor family, I remember going to the farm and picking corn and freezing it. Everything was home cooked because we had to. At 15, I discovered this vegetarian co-op restaurant started by hippies, called Café Kardamena, that is when my eyes really opened. I started working there (I went to a free school that ended at 2pm) and from that time on I dedicated myself to cook the healthiest food at a time where people were eating brown, cheesy, creamy food.
Another influence on me was a vegetarian restaurant in Paris, called Aquarius, where my husband and I spent all our money, and of course the gorgeous markets. Wherever I traveled I went to the markets.
I love straightforward food, food that shines on its own.
On a trip to California, I discovered a beautiful vegetarian restaurant called Greens under the Golden Gate Bridge. The day I came back from that trip I found the spot that became Cafe Brenda. I painted everything fresh and modern and from then on we were packed and we went on for 24 years.
I am inspired and curious of all cuisines and my goal is to show the way to eating farm to table, organic sustainable food that is going to make the world a better place.
2. How did the idea of MCFM germinated in your mind??
As soon as I arrived to Spoonriver in 2006, I had the vision of a farmers market on this plaza in front of the Guthrie! A few weeks later I discovered the train shed that was unused with gates shut at the time, it was a jewel.
We started very small, intentional in our mission: all our food would be organic, local and sustainable. We are going towards our 10th year and we have a vibrant and financially sound market, able to support our employees and farmers.
3. What differentiates MCFM from other farmers markets in Minneapolis?
In our mission, our emphasis is also on education. Thanks to Alina’s sponsoring, 8 days during the summer nutritionist interns give out 2000 samples of a beautiful vegetable dish that is made right here on the plaza. We have yoga and cooking classes. We have a Giving Greens Program, where we gather the vegetables at the end of the market and take it to a non-profit group in the New Riverside Area, we do outreach with People Serving People.
We give out 6-8 grants a year to farmers, including for organic certification, up to $2000 each. There is no other market in the US that does what we do. Our budget comes 1/3 from our vendors, 1/3 from our sponsors and 1/3 from our benefit dinner. We partner with the U of M for surveys on market shopping, in order to understand our community and its needs.
4. What are the three indispensable ingredients in your market bag on Saturdays?
The mixed salad greens, because you cannot find them anywhere else, at least not these!
Singing Hills fresh Goat Cheese, it’s so fresh and the Lamb Sausage, that is 100% lamb!
I arrive at 6.30am, meet the staff and put the Crepe stand together; I shop for berries and other ingredients for the crepes. I check in with the market staff, walk through and say hello to vendors, check in with the special events of the day (yoga, authors, music).
I love to work at the back of the Crepe booth, peacefully, watching the 6000 people going by. Afterwards, I do go back and forth to the restaurant, which is usually very busy that day.
6. What’s your “péché mignon”(your cute sin)?
I love watching and listening to eagles on eagles.com, live, with the sounds of the woods. I watch their life, their babies, I worry about them.
That’s when my daughter says: “mama you crossed the line”!
7. What is the future of MCFM?
I see the market serving the community in a bigger way by increasing the emphasis on education, giving the people the direct connection to the farmers and continue to grow in a way that is financially sustainable to the farmers and the vendors.
Thank you Brenda for taking the time for our interview, you are an example and inspiration to me. I learned so much and I am sure our readers will too.
To check out the original article and many more go to www.Citinerary.com
– Talin –