Post by DIETRICH BRONNER
Dietrich Bronner, product development manager at Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland, is the grandson of originator Wally Bronner. He has planted deep roots in the thriving Frankenmuth Farmers Market and the farmers-market movement statewide.
A LIVING PASSION
Passions are certainly peculiarities. While one person may like cars or sports or even holidays (How about Christmas?!), it was evident early on I had a huge passion for farmers markets. That excitement stemmed from my interest in food, another primary passion. Seeing the entire process from the planting of the seed to the plating of the final product fascinates me. (To say I like to cook doesn’t even begin.) Farmers markets connect you to a wonderful, natural food supply. They make for healthy eaters, a healthy economy, healthy environment, healthy and connected community, and healthier planet. Most importantly, farmers markets grow a healthy, sustainable food supply by supporting our small, local family farms. So when markets add more “life” to this life, what’s not to like?!
A LOVE AFFAIR
My love story with farmers markets began in youth. When I’d stumble upon a market while traveling, my heart would race as I rushed in among the vendor booths, unable to see and smell and discover and experience everything quickly enough. These “Aha!” moments are etched forever in my memory. I clearly remember climbing the summit of a Colorado mountain pass and pulling off the road to stop at a market floating among eerie, thick fog. I can still navigate in my head the layout of that market and its pasta, bread, honey and produce vendors.
Pike Place Market in Seattle and Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco are iconic destinations I was fortunate enough to visit on travels at an early age. Thankfully, Pike Place has welcomed me back many times since my brother moved to Bellevue for a job with Microsoft or, as I say, my excuse to visit Pike Place and go hike in the mountains. The markets and products in Traverse City (pea shoots, honey, homebrewed mead), Flint (breads), Portland (divine, hauntingly-flavored nut butters), and Madison (cheese, cheese, and more cheese!) hold special places in my heart. I can’t think about them too late at night or the excitement will keep me from sleep! Many of these visits were incidentals alongside marathon destinations.
What’s to love so much about farmers markets, besides, of course, everything? The most authentic, genuine, unique products can be found at markets. That is what delights me most. The vendors at markets are incredibly passionate people who pour their whole heart and soul into the wonders they offer. When it comes to food or crafts, the best that money can buy is found at markets, minus an inflated price tag. Your find might be the best peach or melon or bunch of berries ever (or the most amazing scone or pastry or cheese or soap) that will stay forever lodged in your memory. The rewarding feeling of supporting these hardworking growers and producers connects you to their community. You know they receive the full price of everything you buy.
Market shopping provides you the opportunity to purchase the healthy whole foods we should all eat more of. Markets offer personal connections. Farmers can tell you the whole history behind each head of lettuce they grew. They can offer assistance on how to use or cook unfamiliar foods. (Kohlrabi, we’re calling your name!) From picking the perfect potato for your potato salad or hash to choosing the heat of peppers or sweetness of corn, farmers know what they grow, and they’re eager to pass that knowledge on to you. These farmers often feature rare, hard-to-find varieties of fruits and vegetables not available elsewhere. When I explore a market for the first time, I’m thrilled to discover a novel new item, from fava beans to purple carrots to colorful cauliflower to gigantic asparagus stalks to the most amazing variety of melons under the moon. When it comes to farmers markets, you can consider me sold. I’ve always been one huge fan!
It turns out that many other people have discovered the farmers-market faith I’ve been following!
My romance with markets changed in 2005 while I was working at my first post-college job. An article in the Frankenmuth News stated two local women invited anyone interested in starting a farmers market in town to attend a meeting. After the meeting, I was elected vice-president of the new Frankenmuth Farmers Market, which debuted only 59 days after that first assembly. Most of my volunteer time has since been donated to our beloved market and helping to grow markets across Michigan.
The Frankenmuth Market’s first board of directors featured a clever cross-section of society, and we worked together perfectly to form the market quickly while leveraging everyone’s talents. I donated my writing and marketing skills, along with my passion and enthusiasm. Laurajeanne Kehn, our founding market manager and the only paid staff, shared this passion, and she quickly became one of my best friends. Together we’ve received many awards and recognitions for public service and volunteerism, in large part due to the market. My grandpa and grandma were very proud of me and my market work. They frequented the market, my grandpa for sweets and conversation and my grandma for produce to cook and bake even though she grew her own very productive garden.
MILESTONES & MEMORIES
The Frankenmuth Market has celebrated many milestones in our 13-year history. We hosted the world’s first drive-thru farmers market (as far as I can tell from an exhaustive search on the Internet), prompting calls from McDonald’s headquarters and interviews with the Wall Street Journal. Making history is fun! Multiple media sources have named the Frankenmuth Farmers Market one of the top 10 farmers markets in Michigan.
We have published an annual Market Magazine, which I write, along with a market column in the weekly Frankenmuth News. Each article includes a recipe our readers can make at home! Some of my recipes are included in “Bronner’s Flavorful Favorites” and “Bronner’s Flavorful Favorites, Book 2” staff cookbooks, including this one for Watermelon Salad!
– 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
– 3 c. 1-inch watermelon cubes
– 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
– 2 tbl. each of mint and basil leaves, chopped
– 1 avocado, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
– 2 tbl. vinegar of your choice (balsamic, champagne, etc.)
– 2 tbl. extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tsp. pepper
– 3/4 tsp. salt
– 1/2 c. feta cheese
– hickory nuts or walnuts, to top
If you prefer milder onions, add the onion slices to a large bowl and pour vinegar over, letting it set up to an hour. About 15-30 minutes before serving, combine all ingredients except for the feta cheese and nuts and stir gently. Just before serving, lightly stir in feta cheese and top with hickory nuts or walnuts.
*submitted by Dietrich Bronner
For over a decade, the Frankenmuth Farmers Market thrived as a pop-up farmers market of tents in a temporary location. The volunteer hours required to run it successfully seemed endless. However, in the last couple of years, our market team has learned how much more work a permanent location demands. Last year we finished our new 2-million-dollar-plus building complete with a vendor pavilion, reception area, year-round farm store, and incubator kitchen. The kitchen provides new entrepreneurs a space to rent for product preparation for commercial sale until they are established enough to construct their own processing facility.
We also use the kitchen to transform the fresh produce vendors bring in, within hours of harvest, into all sorts of meals for market visitors. I just introduced a line of ice creams for market-goers – Cream of the Crops! I’m also allowed to flex my culinary muscle at conceptual dining experiences I create from the kitchen for lucky participants. So much more is possible in our new building. Instead of setting up tents, we spend time supporting the new nonprofit business of the market that is devoted to educating the public on the values of local foods and products.
THE BIRTH OF A MICHIGAN MARKET MOVEMENT
A decade ago we were developing the Frankenmuth market at a time when there was no state-wide assistance or helpful authority to approach for support. In 2007 with a grant from Project for Public Spaces, interested individuals across Michigan met with a leadership team based at Michigan State University to form a statewide organization dedicated to helping farmers markets begin and grow. After many conference calls and face-to-face meetings, the Michigan Farmers Market Association was officially born on April 20, 2007. I served as its first president on the board of directors alongside my hometown classmate Dru (Bernthal) Montri, who served as the paid director. I also chaired the marketing and membership committee for the group. During the six years of my presidency, MIFMA grew as well as did the number of markets in Michigan. I was honored to travel to Washington, D.C. to report back on MIFMA’s accomplishments. It has been a joy getting to know and work with other passionate and devoted individuals from around our state, and their energies and unique talents have lent much richness to my life and the lives of many across our state and nation. I continue to contribute to MIFMA as much as I can, and the volunteering is equally rewarding. Please visit MIFMA.org for more information about membership and volunteer opportunities.
I am hoping that my passion for farmers markets is contagious, and with that hope, I request a pledge from you and yours. Please …
– attend every market you can,
– invite your family and friends to go with you,
– buy unabashedly and bravely, boldly betting on the amount of healthy produce with which you can enrich your diet and sustain yourself and family, and
– be part of a healthy food future where you know your farmer and the people who nurture you, supporting the growing strength of farmers markets and all they offer!