Slowing Down: A Q&A with Jennifer Casey of the Fondy Farmers Market

Fondy’s Jennifer Casey is a slow food advocate who relishes her role as a “pollinator” connecting people with crucial food issues.

The Fondy Farmers Market, whose 30 producers stand in a lot surrounded by homes at 22nd and Fond du Lac, supports one of the city’s lowest-income ZIP codes. Fondy’s development and communications director, Jennifer Casey, is ardent about the group that works to make homegrown food available to needy people. Casey’s other project is that great connector-to-the-land, Slow Food USA, for which she serves as Wisconsin governor. A Saturday fixture at the market – which operates May to late November, weather dependent – this registered dietitian takes Slow Food’s quest to build the Ark of Taste (a catalog of regional foods in danger of extinction) quite seriously.

What does a Slow Food “governor” do?
I see myself as a conduit between the local office and national programming, and a pollinator connecting people to each other as well as to projects, events and opportunities, like asking regional food activists, farmers and cheesemakers to become Slow Food USA delegates.

Your involvement in Slow Food USA has taken you to Terre Madre, an international assemblage of food communities held every two years in Turin, Italy. What is that like?
It’s incredible. You walk around the halls and learn about food and the food systems of other cultures. Slow Food USA worked hard to have a presence there. We had five producer booths, including food producers from the Midwest offering products, from maple syrup to popcorn to persimmon hot sauce.

How is Wisconsin viewed within the Slow Food community?
Across the network, the Midwest is emerging as a force, no longer a flyover state. The Milwaukee apple, the energies around the Beaver Dam pepper [a Hungarian heirloom pepper brought to Beaver Dam in 1912] are examples of the Ark of Taste in action. They’re referenced nationally.

How does the Fondy market put the Slow Food methodology into practice?
Fondy was created around slow food principles. [The motto is “good, clean and fair food for all.”] The “good” is shown in focusing on the strengths of a diverse community. Young Kim [Fondy’s executive director] has done an amazing job of seeking out people who can tell the stories of their communities. Our launching a youth group has helped create a cultural crossroads in a city with such segregation. That gets into the “fair.”

‘Slowing Down’ appears in the November 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find the November issue on newsstands Nov. 2

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.