Why are farmers markets so important to our state?
We talked with David Kotsonas, market manager at the Rochester Farmers Market, which provides SNAP-eligible foods and the use of Market Bucks, a program funded by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. Kotsonas offers insights on how farmers markets operate and why they are so beneficial to Minnesotans.
How long have you been involved with the Rochester Farmers Market?
This is my fourth summer. I moved from Southern California. Once here, I quickly became a regular customer of the market and made connections with the vendors whose stalls I frequented. There was an opening with the market as an assistant manager and after multiple interviews, I was selected.
What drew you to being a part of a farmers market?
I grew up in Bloomington, Minn. As a child, my dad often took me to the Minneapolis and St. Paul farmers markets and we would frequently stop at roadside produce stands and support local growers.
Why do you feel farmers markets are so valuable?
They increase both the community’s access to the freshest and most nutritious foods and the opportunities for local, independent growers to succeed. Markets allow for relationships between farmers and consumers to grow.
What is something behind-the-scenes of the farmers market people may not know?
Most people are surprised to hear I work full-time. During the summer, I work seven days a week. I am constantly promoting the market, taking phone calls, answering email, visiting farms, creating ads, meeting with civic leaders and even cleaning port-a-potties!
What new food might people try out at the Rochester Farmers Market?
This year, that product is kefir. It’s a bottled [fermented milk] drink. We have almost 100 growers, and they are often trying to find new ways to be innovative, unique and expand the variety of produce offered.
What motivates you to continue working at the Rochester Farmers Market?
Knowing that the market is important to the community. I feel that being part of a community is very important to an individual’s health and well-being. Some find community within a church, at work, etc. I believe that farmers markets build a similar type of community feel. I believe in the vision of the market and the way of life for independent farmers. I fight hard for these folks.