The vision of Destination Medical Center (DMC) focuses on downtown Rochester; however, its impact will expand far beyond the city limits of our community. DMC will have a ripple effect on the surrounding communities, Minnesota, and beyond.
What better way to grow those relationships than at the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market (RDFM)? Picking up a share from a community-supported agriculture farm for a family friend, I got an in-depth look at the beautiful ecosystem that results when all of these communities come together to share food, culture, and friendship.
The RDFM is a phenomenal example of the immense radius of communities that make up the unique culture of Rochester. Among the cities represented weekly at the RDFM are Zumbro Falls, Altura, Wykoff, Lake City, Oronoco, Byron, Elgin, and Kasson—each bringing its own expertise and flavor to the table. This foundation of community collaboration created a space for people to do their weekly shopping, socialize, and learn.
The market stands were full of in-season fruits and vegetables, salsa, eggs, soup mixes, flowers, breads, cake, meat, candles, honey, and so much more. The utilization of the RDFM varied from person to person; some people whom I spoke with came specifically for a few products, while others came to do a majority of their grocery shopping.
The stands emulated a museum of sorts. Each piece of produce and product was a carefully crafted item from the hands of its artists. Whatever medium used, it was obvious that careful consideration had been made when making each cut into a piece of wood or while weeding the garden. I found myself wandering around the market just to admire the beautiful creations at each table.
The market was as much a place to pick up weekly groceries as a social space both in front of and behind the stands. Looking for a snack to go along with my coffee, I came across some yummy cinnamon lefse chips, a twist on a Norwegian classic. Behind the counter, Monica Brossard, her sister, and her cousin all busily greeted customers, rolled more lefse, and prepared samples. It seemed like a weekly small family reunion.
The market was flooded with conversation, laughter, and enthusiastic greetings, reminding me of holidays with the family and pleasant memories. The RDFM in many ways is a revival of the communal essence of food. Many people said that the interactions with their family, friends, community members, and farmers were what kept them coming back again and again.
The collaboration of multiple communities also created a classroom for learning about the food-to-table process. While picking up my farm share, I had the pleasure of chatting with Lonny Dietz and his wife Sandy who own Whitewater Gardens Farm. Dietz explained to me the importance of sustainable agriculture. Their farm is among a group of community-supported agriculture farms, which consists of a pool of individuals who pledge to support a farm operation, mutually sharing risk and reward. Composed of 6 to 8 acres of vegetables, 5 acres of hardwoods, 15 acres of restored prairie, an organic dairy farm, and an assortment of other animals, the Dietz’s farm is a well-balanced ecosystem.
The farm’s outreach doesn’t stop at the RDFM, though. “We want to get to the point where we are using it as more of an educational farm,” says Dietz.
Voted the “Best Farmers Market in Minnesota,” the Rochester Downtown Farmers Market is a living, growing example of how local and global communities are deeply woven into the fabric of the unique culture of Rochester and will continue to be as DMC moves forward.