Ho-Chunk Village Farmer’s Market prepares for second season with COVID-19 protocols in place

Farmers' food market stall with variety of organic vegetable. Vendor serving and chatting with customers.

The Ho-Chunk Village Farmer’s Market 2020 season will begin on Wednesday, June 17 and will be held every Wednesday until Oct. 14. There will be certain protocols and regulations in place to ensure the safety of community members. The protocols are as follows: 

  • Shop and exit. 
  • Stay 6 feet apart.
  • Wash produce when you return home.
  • Do not bring pets to the Farmers Market.
  • Wear a mask at all times.
  • Use hand sanitizer often.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Send only one person to shop.
  • Do not touch food or products you don’t want to purchase.

Vendors and Farmer’s Market leaders will be taking many other steps to ensure the safety of community members, such as wearing gloves, providing hand sanitizing stations and suspending food samples.

According to Farmer’s Market Coordinator Vince Bass, “The goal of the Farmers Market is to bring our community together to collectively address the health disparities of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, hypertension, etc., and fill the void of being a “food desert” or lack of available fresh fruits and vegetables in our area.”

“We know that most diseases can be prevented by a healthy diet and exercise,” Bass said. “We already have a variety of physical exercise programs for all ages and now we need to make fresh fruits and vegetables available to community members.  We can directly improve the health of our community members by encouraging healthy eating and exercise choices.”

Thanks to USDA grants, more than 200 raised garden beds have been donated, 100 backyards have been tilled, and seeds, starter plants, hand tools, technical assistance gear and more have been distributed to community members in the last two years at no cost.

Most families in Winnebago are now gardening and the response has been overwhelming, Bass said. The entire community, including over a dozen partners, have come together to make this effort possible and will continue to expand and improve efforts. 

The Winnebago Public School is one of the Farmers Market partners working to teach children how to grow their own food.  

“They [children] will be our Knowledge Keepers and will pass this information on to their children and future generations,” Bass said.

Organizers are also encouraging the collection and sale of wild indigenous foods such as mushrooms, plums, strawberries, elderberries, mulberries, wild potatoes & turnips, milkweed, walnuts, acorns and similar foraged foods. Most products will be allowed, with the exception of environmentally unfriendly, dangerous and illegal items.

Vendors can also bring cooked food, given they have food handling or SafeServe certification and that they follow the Tribal Food Code in coordination with the Ho-Chunk Office of Environmental Health Department.

Throughout the Farmers Market 2020 season, students and educators from Little Priest Tribal College Extension Office will be offering classes in gardening, cooking, seed saving, preservation and storage of vegetables, food handling, SafeServe training and more. They will also offer free seeds, starter plants, hand tools, tilling of gardens and technical assistance for community members. Visit https://www.littlepriest.edu/2014-04-25-13-24-47/community-resources/community_education.html to learn more about the workshops and classes offered through Little Priest Tribal College.

The main goal of the Farmer’s Market, Bass said, is to encourage healthy choices and support food sovereignty for the Winnebago Tribe.

“We hope to see our health problem statistics begin to decrease very soon and will continue our efforts to ensure food sovereignty within our community and our area, and we will have fun and exercise while doing it,” Bass said.