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Minnesota Farmers' Market Association 

MFMA & LSP Host Putnam, Gustafson To Talk Local Foods

MFMA and Land Stewardship Project were happy to host Senators Aric Putnam and Heather Gustafson, and other members of the MN Senate Ag Committee at Simple Harvest Farm Organics, Nerstrand, on July 20.  MDA Assistant Commissioner Patrice Bailey attended, as did several market managers, food farmers, and folks involved with food policy in MN.

Chair Putnam gave MFMA’s and LSP’s bill asking for $10,000 grants to every farmers’ market in MN and the Tribal Nations a hearing in committee during the 2023 session. Although that bill, authored by Senator Mary Kunesh, failed to get funded, the Legislature did fund $200,000 over  two years to help farmers’ markets with the costs of SNAP EBT.

A tour of Zeman’s Simple Harvest Farm, a MN Ag Water Quality certified farm that has all certified organic inputs and is 100% grass-based with trees in all paddocks for shade for the livestock, included discussions on:

  • farming the land the way it needs to be farmed. SHFO is all HE (highly erodible) land; in order to prevent soil erosion the land is in perennial pasture. Berms put in to stop severe soil erosion on 24% slope when the land was row cropped previously, have been repurposed to grow grass and trees, to provide shade.

  • the need to compensate farmers, particularly produce farmers, when their food crops receive illegal pesticide drift. The current process, with abnormally long test times, creates financial losses for produce farmers on par with the losses experienced by grain farmers at elevators.

  • the key to profitable small scale farms is to get to scale quickly, and sound financial records.

MN’s Local Foodshed is Booming - Where Can Funding Come From For the Needed Infrastructure?   

Bucking state and national trends of aging and decreasing number of commodity farmers, MN’s small scale and emerging farmers population continues to show marked growth, especially in growing food crops and livestock. The Statewide Cooperative Partnership 2022 data shows that farmers in this category average over 60% more in market value sales per acre than 'all farmers,' in the 2017 U.S. Ag Census.

Data confirms the growth and potential of MN’s local foodshed; what’s needed next is funding to support the ‘local foodshed infrastructure,’ also called the ‘community food web.’ Once this investment happens in community commercial kitchens, community food hubs (including farmers’ market food hubs), community food storage warehouses, community food grade transportation, then growth in MN’s ability to grow food increases exponentially, and in doing so builds resilience across greater MN as well as the burgeoning urban ag farms.

Senator Gustafson’s bill to provide free meals to school children was passed in 2023. Once the local foodshed infrastructure is built out, it will make it easier for those meals to come directly from MN food farmers, revolving that money in MN. As COVID illuminated, having multiple sales channels for food farmers is critical: farmers’ markets, farm-to-school, farm-to-institution, etc.

Senator Putnam said it was his intent for the Senate Ag Committee to visit farms this summer and listen to the stories; the group has 40 farm tours scheduled already. He encouraged our group to research and build relationships with other Legislative committees and state agencies, because our work includes food access, food security, economic development, workforce development, education, etc.

Lunch was local! Food came from Rotational Roots, Sevens Songs Organic Farm, Simple Harvest Farm Organics - all three either current or former farmers’ market vendors.


  • Patrice Bailey, MDA Assistant Commissioner

  • Aric Putnam, Chair of the Senate Ag Committee

  • Heather Gustafson, Senate Ag Committee member

  • Jacqueline Borromeo, Legislative Assistant 

  • Nick Roth, Legislative Assistant 

  • Laura Paynter, Senate Ag Committee Legislative Analyst

  • Hunter Pederson, Senate Ag Committee Administrator

  • Amanda Pedersen, Senate Ag Committee Researcher

  • Chaz Sandifer, Lakeview Terrace Farmers’ Market Manager 

  • Betsy Wentz, Rotational Roots Farm, and Riverwalk Market Fair Manager

  • Jane Jewett, Willow Sedge Farm, and Associate Director MISA

  • Melissa Driscoll, Seven Songs Organic Farm

  • Gail Donkers, Big Woods Babydoll Sheep, and MFU Outreach

  • Natalie Hoidal, UMN Extension vegetable specialist 

  • Sadie Gannett, MDH SHIP

  • Amanda Koehler, LSP Policy Manager

  • Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly, MFMA Database Manager

  • Sina Pleggenkuhle, MFMA Engagement & Inclusion Director

  • Kathy Zeman, Simple Harvest Farm Organics, and MFMA Executive Director

MFMA provides services, programs, and leadership that support and promote farmers' markets

across Minnesota and our Tribal Nations.

We envision a community of vibrant, profitable, and professionally managed Minnesota farmers’ markets that:

Cultivates, nourishes, and inspires a vibrant local foods community;

provides accessibility to all to local farm fresh foods;

allows local food producers to thrive and grow.

Engagement & Inclusion Director: Sina War /// /// (612) 695-6587 

Local Foodshed Database Manager: Maeve Mallozzi-Kelly /// /// (574) 310-5553

Executive Director: Kathy Zeman /// /// (507) 664-9446 

Minnesota Farmers' Market Association /// 9800 155th Street East, Nerstrand MN 55053 /// 


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