Farmers markets encourage healthy lifestyles

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Nikki Rajala
The Visitor

In light of Pope Francis’ recent encyclical “Laudato Si’, On the Care of Our Common Home,” Catholics in central Minnesota who shop at or are vendors at farmers markets can take pride in the knowledge they are already following many of its precepts.

By supporting local growers who use environmentally responsible practices, shoppers participate as partners and stewards of creation. Markets where customers can select the freshest garden produce strengthen the bonds between urban and rural families.

Buying foods at local farmers markets is more than shopping for vegetables — it helps Catholics live their faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. It connects people, and encourages healthy choices and relationships.

Passion for sustainability

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Rebecca, center, and John Myrum, who attend St. Francis Xavier Parish in Sartell, peruse the Sartell Farmers Market Aug. 17 with their three boys, Quinn, 6, Cole, 4 and Alexander, 16 mos. Photos by Dianne Towalski / The Visitor

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Alexander Myrum goes for a handful of cherry tomatoes.

The Greenbush Farms booth at Sartell farmers markets features a “vegetable rainbow” — beans, tomatoes and peppers, grown without pesticides or herbicides, owner Chuck Long said. That makes it consistent with “care of God’s creation,” a principle of Catholic social teaching.

“We’re super passionate about using sustainable farm practices, responsible growing and making sure the land is better than when we found it,” Long said.

He calls himself a “novice farmer who’s always had a passion for growing vegetables.”

He and his son Tony have been vendors at markets in Princeton, Onamia, Monticello, Isle and Sartell for the last eight years. The family attends Christ Our Light Parish in Princeton/Zimmerman.

“Whether it’s rotating crops, growing cover crops or composting, it all adds up to healthy soil which affects the quality of the vegetables we grow,” Long said. “We want to do no harm to the earth while providing the most nutritional value to our customers. They get vegetables picked within the last 24 hours. In some metro areas, people can shop different markets each day.”

Plus, he said, “local farmers markets are wonderful places for fellowship.”

‘Certified organic’

Kelly Haws and her husband, Dan Stark, own Bannockburn Farm in rural Cold Spring, certified organic since 2007. Their sons, Connor at St. John’s University and Kevin at St. John’s Preparatory School, both in Collegeville, help with chores.

“Three things are very important to our family — faith, education and building community,” Haws said. “Faith is part of everything we do. We also believe in treating our livestock well — they fertilize our soil, which is good for the earth.”

Stark teaches at St. John’s Prep, and Haws is a dyslexia specialist for All Saints Academy at both its St. Joseph and St. Cloud campuses and teaches at Sartell’s Pine Meadows Elementary School. The couple graduated from St. Cloud’s Cathedral High School; the family worships at St. Peter Parish in St. Cloud.

“Our family loves doing the market,” Haws said. “My mom and I work it together. Our customers tell us it’s important that vegetables were picked the night before.”

Being “certified organic,” one of two such growers at the Saturday St. Cloud market, means they use no chemicals — no pesticides, herbicides or insecticides, Haws said.

Their products — organic vegetables, eggs, lamb, pork, beef, chicken — are offered exclusively at the Saturday market.

“In our community-supported agriculture model, customers preorder vegetables — or choose them at the St. Cloud market,” Haws said. “They skip weeks that aren’t convenient. People work on the farm to teach their children where food comes from or to credit their account. They can join any time. At the end of the season, money left in their account rolls over to the next year.”
Healthy alternatives

St. Boniface parishioner Theresa Eells usually shops at the Cold Spring farmers market and occasionally visits the one in St. Joseph.
Why?

“I can ask how fresh the vegetables are,” Eells said, “whether they are grown without extra chemicals. It makes a big difference.”

When her sister, Virginia Johannes, also of Cold Spring, had a CentraCare appointment, she discovered a new market — the CentraCare Health Family Farmers Market in Sartell on Thursdays.

Megan Lensing, program development specialist for the Coborn Cancer Center, said their market includes a health component.

“The Community Health booth allows us to reach out while people are grocery shopping and meal planning,” Lensing said. “Health care staff are there to answer questions and offer relevant insights.

“Market-goers are enthused about the featured food newsletter and especially the recipe cards that include the vendors’ products. Not everyone knows how to incorporate goat cheese or kale into their everyday lives,” she said.

“We’re always excited when shoppers ask questions. When we don’t have answers, we encourage them to ask the source — our vendors,” she said.

Half of the Thursday market-goers are CentraCare staff and their families, Lensing noted, and a third are clinic patients and their families. People have also scheduled appointments to visit the market.

“This market is a prime example of CentraCare trying to tackle ‘well-care.’ The goal here is to make the healthful option the convenient one in hopes of preventing lifestyle-related illness in the first place. If visitors make a small lifestyle change based on something they learned at the market, we’ll consider our efforts worthwhile.”