With a broad smile Jarucha Sirikaew arranges her display of fresh vegetables at a special Madison farmer’s market. Located at Centro Hispano near the Villager Mall on Park Street El Mercadito de Centro is a gathering place for local growers as well as a spot where Southside residents can find locally raised produce. Known as the Siamese Farmer Sirikaew thrills at the opportunity to share not only her passion for making things grow but a bit of the cultural experience from her native Thailand.
“In my country I had the farm. I like growing organic vegetables,” she said with pride. “It makes me so happy!”
With expertise from their native homelands the farmers of El Mercadito de Centro offer a unique service to their Madison neighbors. Despite the challenges of some to whom English is second language they can provide a variety of food items for the health and well being of many who don’t always have access to good nutrition. Because Centro Hispano serves the needs of immigrants from many different foreign countries director of adult programs Mariela Quesada Centeno says the farmer’s market could help to forge relationships between community members through the one thing they all share in common.
“Everyone loves food and we have a really diverse neighborhood” Quesada said. “At Centro Hispano we have a lot of clients and we’ve had so many people who’ve said, ‘wouldn’t it be great to have fresh vegetables?’”
As luck would have it a few of Centro Hispano’s clients are small scale farmers. With plots of land they work nearby in communities such as Verona and Brooklyn these growers can help meet the demand while establishing a few minority-owned small businesses.
“We want to harness the entrepreneurship among the Latino, Hmong and Thai farmers,” Quesada said. “We decided to do it because it was something that was needed for Centro Hispano and we wanted to do more outreach to the whole community”
In addition to helping the farmers earn a living El Mercadito de Centro also aims to offer its customers better choices when it comes to preparing meals at home. Farmer Yimmuaj Yang said the new market can deliver fresh produce that is seldom available on this end of town.
“The Southside of Madison is a food desert and I think having a farmers market here is a great thing,” she said. “Centro serves a lot of underprivileged families. We can serve a lot of food to people in need.”