Minnesota Farmers’ Market Association Executive Director, Kathy Zeman is one of two nationwide recipients of the 2021 Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) Gus Schumacher Award for leadership during COVID-19 to Minnesota farmers markets, assistance to peers around the United States, and to FMC.

According to FMC Executive Director Ben Feldman, the award is named in honor of former Farmers Market Coalition board member Gus Schumacher to recognize individuals who exemplify Gus’ work to bring fresh, local food to Americans of all income levels and backgrounds.

“Honorees demonstrate Gus’ people-first approach to building coalitions to supports farmers market success,” stated Feldman in a press release.

Zeman accepted the award at the Farmers Market Pro’s InTents Virtual Conference Thursday, March 18. According to Zeman, this award is a true accolade for MFMA and all their partners in the Minnesota local foodshed.

“Our team here in Minnesota is really deep,” she said in the release. “We have worked closely with many local food ag organizations, state agencies, our board of directors, market managers, vendors, and other partners over the past year to ensure our food farmers and food makers thrived so they could feed their neighbors and communities through this pandemic.”

MFMA reportedly provided weekly virtual meetings to stakeholders, educated markets on best practices regarding COVID-19 health and safety measures, and worked to keep markets open.

According to Feldman, farmers markets nationwide fought to make the case for their essential nature in the early days of COVID-19.

“Information was hard to come by, guidance from officials at the local, state, and national level was confusing and often contradictory,” stated Feldman in the release. “But in Minnesota as soon as the reality of the situation became clear, Kathy was on the phone with the Minnesota agricultural commissioner and as a result, farmers markets in Minnesota were appropriately recognized as essential businesses from day one and were valued for their role in safely distributing food at a time when retail supply chains were struggling.”

“Our work and our partnerships support small and mid-sized farmers and ultimately connect communities to their food systems,” Zeman added. “Farmers markets are absolutely essential in supporting our local economies and our access to local foods.”

The other Gus Schumacher recipient was Stephanie Fenty, former manager of operations and strategic engagement at the Farmers Market Coalition, for her development of membership systems, toolkits, and overall contributions to FMC.

For more information on the Minnesota Farmers Market Association and their mission to provide services, programs, and leadership which support and promote farmers’ markets across Minnesota, visit mfma.org.

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