Say Hello New Vendors: Soul Brew Kombucha & Plan Bee Honey

Though we are closing in on the end of the 2021 market season, it’s a great moment to acknowledge and show love for some of the South Shore Farmers’ Market’s newest vendors. In 2021, we welcomed five new vendors: Centgraf Farms, Plan Bee Honey, Rise & Grind Coffee, Soul Brew Kombucha and Stamper Cheese. Recently, committee member Elisabeth Gasparka had the chance to speak with two of the business owners about their businesses, what motivates them, and how the South Shore Farmers’ Market is part of their inspiration, their growth, and their evolving stories. 

SOUL BREW KOMBUCHA

Tell us about your business origin story.

It was birthed out of a place where I was learning how to take care of myself. I had decided that I wanted to start doing things for me, as a woman. I think a lot of women experience this: we give until our cups are empty, and we have nothing left for ourselves. And I was a victim of that. Bad habits, depression, overworking myself for other people, giving myself to my students as an educator, and still trying to be a mom at home, and I ended up being pre-diabetic. Fast forward to a conversation with my sister who said, “Hey, maybe you should start drinking kombucha. It stinks, and it tastes really gross, but it’s really good for you.” 

I tried it…and I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t think about it again, until I was scrolling on Facebook. A woman I knew was offering some extra scobys. I remember while doing some of the research early on I learned that “scoby” stood for a “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast” and I was super intrigued. I got in the car, I drove over to her home. She showed me where I should get my bottle and the things I needed to start brewing at home. And that one scoby transformed into an entire business. I’m forever grateful for that moment. 

I started brewing out of a desire to heal myself, and the benefits really rang true to me. Within twenty minutes my acid reflux had really calmed down. I had a lot of energy. I saw that my inflammation was going down. It prompted me to want to exercise. You know, when you start doing small things that are good for you, it leads to you doing larger things that are good for you. All around, it changed my state of thinking about health and wellness, and I started sharing it with women at church. They really enjoyed the flavors, and I learned early on that it was about education. 

After doing a little bit more research into the brands that are out there– I saw that they really don’t target Black and Brown people. A lot of issues that we’re dealing with in the inner city– I felt like I had stumbled upon this elixir that really could be beneficial. I wanted to create a brand that really spoke to the people. Not that I wanted to exclude anyone because we’re very diverse and we’re very inclusive in our messaging, but at the same time, I wanted to do something that I know other brands are not doing by targeting Black and Brown people, and really making it diabetic-friendly. “Low in sugar, high and delicious flavor,” is our motto and that’s what we continue to provide in our product.

The name Soul Brew is a reflection of how it made me feel. It felt good to my soul, and, being a native of Milwaukee, I had to acknowledge the brew city. Within six months, I decided It was going to be a business. I did some research about what the market looks like. It was all about targeting yoga moms, suburban white mothers, not Black and Brown people. I felt it could be really beneficial for those communities. So that intrigued me as well.

What drives you?

I’ve always been a woman of service. This is a great way for me to give. I’ve always been a creative, and coming up with flavors has been great. I’m a foodie, and I have a very intricate palette. And I like to put things together that make sense. Outside of it being something that I could change my life with, as a business, I really enjoy the creativity behind it. 

How would you describe the spirit of your company? 

Ooh, we are alive, we are vibrant, we are raw, we are real. You know, I spoke to someone about the tone. And I said, I see Soul Brew as a favorite “Auntie.” She speaks the truth, she’s always speaking in love, and she’s always helping you. And this is the person you can confide in and you trust: that’s Soul Brew. I want it to be the brand that people can look at and say, “Okay, I know I’m getting what I’m supposed to be getting, I know I’m going to enjoy this, I know that it’s going to be great for my health. I know that messaging is going to be able to reach me and other people, I’m going to learn something from this.”

What is special about your product? 

It’s creative. It’s Wisconsin’s first Black female kombucha company. I bring a lot to the table. It’s diabetic friendly, I’m targeting a certain group of individuals. My flavor profiles are unique and creative. You can identify with them, and it makes you want to come back and try something new. 

What attracted you to apply to join the South Shore Farmers’ Market? 

When I first thought about doing farmers markets everybody said, “You’ve got to get into South Shore. The people are faithful, you’ll really create a wonderful clientele people you know, rain or shine people are there.” It’s a wonderful group of people. I was so bummed out when I was told initially that they didn’t have a spot for me. But lo and behold, another company went out of business, and a spot opened up and I got the call. I was so excited. It’s become one of my absolute favorite spaces to go on Saturday. I love the people and the energy there. People are very willing to hear me out and learn more about kombucha. I love that people come back excited to tell me about their own health discoveries. It’s a wonderful group of people, and I’m very grateful to now be a part of that circle. 

Where else in Milwaukee or beyond can people find your products? 

We’re online a mysoulbrew.com and milwaukeefarmersunited.com After the market season is over, we will be opening up our space to do Growler fill-ups. People can sign up with a subscription and come and get their growlers filled throughout the rest of the year.  We are also found at:

Milwaukee:

Outpost Natural Foods, Riley Sandwich Shop, Good Kind, Strange Town, Company Brewing, Urban Beets, Draft & Vessel, Glass Pantry

Madison:

Willy Street Co-op

Franklin: 

Blue Mills Garden

How has the pandemic impacted your business?

The world seemed to be on a downward spiral, and in the midst of that I had something that was immune-building. I had to shut down production for a couple months. And it wasn’t anyone but Judge Mosley who called me and said, “Hey, my daughter wants some of your kombucha,” and I said, “Well, Judge, we had to close down production. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything, but I am about to start back up again.” He said, “Okay, well, as soon as you do, you let me know.” And so I did. He followed up by saying, “I’m going to post this on my foodie page, but I’m telling you now, when I post this you’re going to get a lot of inquiries. Are you ready?” Of course I said yes. I wasn’t ready, though. After that, I got order after order after order. I had to start taking pre-orders. That was in June of 2020, so in the midst of a pandemic we really started to take off.

Simultaneously, we had social unrest and so much was going on. I came up with a flavor, “BLM,” which is blackberry, lemon and mango. It’s a strong message with a sweet refrain, since “BLM” also stands for Black Lives Matter. The fact that we were able to speak to the people through the product made me extremely excited. 

What are your plans for the future? 

My goal is to distribute nationally, and even internationally. I am looking into cans and really pushing e-commerce. We are growing. In April, we moved into our own facility, South First Street inside the Lincoln Warehouse building, and we’ve grown more from then until now. It has been a steady climb, and a huge undertaking, but I love what I do. It is really refreshing to get testimonials from people who are giving praise to a product that is transforming their lives. People love this brand. They love what it stands for. They love that I’m a Black woman in Milwaukee doing something amazing. 

Soul Brew wants to continue to getting better with pushing education and awareness for diabetes. We want to do more partnerships with restaurants as they open. We now do kegs, 12-pack bottles, and soon 6-packs of cans. So our product line has been growing immensely.

I have really, really enjoyed being part of the market this season, and I’m looking forward to Soul Brew Kombucha becoming even better, and bringing more to the table for the next season! Cheers!

– Alesia Miller, Owner

PLAN BEE HONEY CO.

What drives you to harvest honey?

I like to think that by keeping bees I am saving the planet. It makes me feel like a tiny super hero.  I’ve always been fascinated by bees and how complex and efficient bee life is; I wanted to see it for myself. The best way was to put a hive in my yard, but the endeavor was daunting and all I did was think about it. I couldn’t pull the trigger. My boyfriend surprised me by enrolling me in a local beekeeping club. I didn’t have much choice, then, but to dive right in and I’m so glad I did! It’s a rewarding career that puts me in touch with nature, with the added benefit of providing a local, pure product that people love.

How would you describe the spirit of your company? 

Fun, clean, and sweet! We are a green company. We don’t use any chemicals.  We try to make life easy for the bees by giving them a good home and making sure we do all we can to keep their environment perfect for honey production. Then we sit back and let the bees be bees. They make the honey and we bring it to you.

What is special about your product?

It’s local. You need to know your beekeeper so you can be sure that you are buying real honey… not blended honey or honey with additives. It’s pure. The only thing in our honey is honey! It’s raw. We never heat, treat or pasteurize. We call it  “hive to table.” We keep our prices affordable. And darn it, people love our honey!

What attracted you to apply to join the South Shore Farmers’ Market? 

I loved the origin story of the market. I was intrigued that a group of neighbors started the market in the 1990s.  Neighbors come and go, so I’m sure it isn’t the same group of neighbors, but I love the feeling of inclusion and commitment that keeps the Shore Farmers’ Market going strong all these years later! The committee is always present and always improving the market. I like to know that what I can buy at South Shore is made or grown locally.

Where else in Milwaukee (or beyond!) can people find your products?

We participate in four markets a week, and special events all around the metro area. Look for locations on our Facebook page: Plan Bee Honey Co.

How has the pandemic impacted your business, and what are your goals for the future?

The pandemic sent us all home and we had to find a new way to do business without contact, just like everyone else. We offered porch pick-up and it worked! People liked it, so we will continue porch pick-up so you can still get honey after the market season ends. The downtime gave us opportunities to build and grow new bee yards, hone our skills and techniques, poll the masses and we found out what people want. We added products, and expanded our farmers market schedule. We came back wiser and stronger and will continue as long as we have air, water and sunshine. Life is sweet! 🐝

– Erica Feltner, Owner.

There’s still time to catch Soul Brew Kombucha, Plan Bee Honey, and all the rest of our phenomenal vendors in-person at the market, before the market closes for the season at the end of October! Join us Saturday from 8 am- 12 pm at South Shore Park through Oct 30. 





SSFM Volunteers Needed

Market welcomes FoodShare

Market organizers announced that this year for the first time since its launch in 1998, SSFM will accept payments made with FoodShare benefits, Wisconsin’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The market is partnering with the Bay View Community Center (BVCC) to institute the program.

How it works

Because many vendors don’t have the technology at their booth to process the card, SSFM will exchange FoodShare benefits for tokens. Customers will use their tokens to purchase eligible food items. Mike Mortell, president and CEO of the Bay View Community Center said that other Milwaukee markets, including Fondy, use the token system. “It’s really great for community members who use FoodShare,” he said, noting they will have access to fresh food which will provide more customers for the market’s farmers, especially beneficial during the economic duress of the pandemic.

Additionally, another set of tokens will be available for customers who want to use a credit or debit card at the market. These non-Quest-based tokens can be used to purchase any market item and will be offered as a convenience for customers who who don’t want to use cash, Mortell said.

BVCC is seeking volunteers to assist with the token exchange each Saturday at the market. Mortell said he hopes a number of people will participate so the same volunteers “hopefully would not have to be at the market every Saturday.”

To learn more about volunteering or the exchange process see below, or contact BVCC, info@bayviewcenter.org.

Woof, Woof! South Shore Farmers Market Returns June 19

April 30, 2021

By Sheila Julson

The celebrated South Shore Farmers Market (SSFM) has become a community mainstay since it began in 1998. It’s one of the events that defines Bay View.

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the SSFM committee to implement safety protocols. Many pandemic safety guidelines that were in place last year will be reinstituted this year, with one exception. This season, patrons’ canine companions will be welcomed back to the market—with certain restrictions.

There is a tendency for people to cluster around dogs, which can create bottlenecks that thwart other patrons’ movement from vendor to vendor. For safety’s sake, the committee prohibited dogs from entering the market in the 2020 season. SSFM committee member Mary Beth Driscoll said that while there was almost 100 percent compliance with COVID-19 safety restrictions by marketgoers last year, the prohibition of dogs was a sticking point.

For the second year in a row, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the SSFM committee to implement safety protocols. Many pandemic safety guidelines that were in place last year will be reinstituted this year, with one exception. This season, patrons’ canine companions will be welcomed back to the market—with certain restrictions

This season dogs will be permitted, but they must be on a short leash. No  retractable leashes will be permitted. Committee volunteers will monitor patrons with dogs to ensure they do not create congestion.  

Social distancing
All vendors will again be located around the north perimeter of South Shore Park to allow for social distancing. But unlike last year where customers were directed in a one-way traffic pattern, two-way foot traffic will be allowed this year. Physical distancing and face masks will again be required.

That placement of vendors might become a permanent feature. “We found that it’s really popular with people. They liked the fact that it was more spread out,” Driscoll said.

There will be a barrier table placed in front of each vendor’s booth to safely distance their products and themselves from patrons. Vendors may display their offerings, but to ensure sanitary conditions, customers cannot pick them up to inspect. Vendors will assist with selection, purchase, and bagging.

There will be boxes on the barrier tables for customers to place their money or credit/debit cards, allowing for contactless purchases. “Even while trying to be careful, it’s sometimes easy to forget and accidentally get close to someone,” Driscoll noted. 

Vendors will be prohibited from offering samples. All purchases of prepared food must be taken home and not consumed on site.

A change that marks a return to prepandemic times is the return of a nonprofit organization’s table, but this season it will be limited to one table for a single nonprofit organization. 

A Bay View-based nonprofit will be permitted to set up a table next to the community tent at each market to distribute information about itself and its activities. Groups that want to participate or who want more information should call Brigid Globensky, 414-489-9910, and leave a message. Because the table is solely for sharing information, nonprofit participants cannot sell anything.

READ FULL ARTICLE…

Pandemic brings changes to Bay View’s beloved summer market

By Stephanie Harling, Mary Beth Driscoll and Ann Hippensteel

The South Shore Farmers Market plans to open June 20. Organizers were given approval to proceed by Milwaukee County officials, along with steps that must be implemented to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The market season is currently scheduled to be held each Saturday from 8am to noon from June 20 until late October. Market organizers warn that its plans for the season are fluid and subject to change, since the pandemic threat changes daily. Therefore, the start date may change. Customers can monitor updates and changes that will be posted on its Facebook page, South Shore Farmer’s Market.

“Our first priority is creating a market that puts safety first and that required that many policy changes were made to ensure our operations are in compliance with local measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19,” said Stephanie Harling. “The SSFM committee has been working diligently in partnership with the Milwaukee County Parks to create a safe shopping experience for customers, vendors, volunteers, and staff at the market. Our compliance procedures dovetail with requirements established by Milwaukee County and guidelines provided by the State of Wisconsin.”

One of the biggest changes affecting the 2020 season is the county’s decision to close South Shore Drive to vehicular traffic Saturday mornings. In addition, the market’s footprint will be expanded to accommodate social distancing. Vendors will be located on the sidewalk on the South Shore Drive as in previous years but their placement will stretch a greater distance—from East Estes Street on the north, to East Rusk Street to the south.

Another row of vendors will be located behind those along the South Shore Drive sidewalk, providing increased space between the rows to accommodate shoppers.

Currently 42 vendors have signed up for the first Saturday of the 2020 season. In past years, the number of vendors ranged from 40 to 45.

The volunteer members of the South Shore Farmers Market Committee met virtually to plan the 2020 market season, one that required dramatic changes to protect vendors and shoppers in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Top: Stephanie Harling, Angie Tornes and Mark Budnik, Kathy Mulvey; Middle: Mary Beth Driscoll, Ann Hippensteel, Sue Boyle Bottom: Mike Mortell, Chad VanDierendonck. Not shown are committee members Amy Mihelich, Kurt Mihelich, and Mike O’Toole Photo Angie Tornes

Customer Guidelines

In an effort to comply with safety guidelines, the market committee is hiring two additional market staff members to manage compliance requirements among vendors, customers, and volunteers. Customers are asked to follow the following compliance requirements:

• To avoid people congregating in groups, the committee asks that only one person per household attend the market.

• The market will not be allowed to provide picnic tables for friends and family to gather as in prior years.

• In addition, all prepared food purchased at the market must be taken home and not eaten on site.

• Dogs will be prohibited this season. “We understand how much Bay View loves its dogs, but this year they cannot be allowed in the market,” said Mary Beth Driscoll.

• The 2020 market will operate by the motto: “We wear a mask for you and ask that you wear one too.” To carry this out, all vendors, staff, and volunteers will be required to wear masks to promote safety. All attendees are asked to wear a mask out of respect for the farmers and food producers.

• Customers will be required to practice physical distancing, whether walking through the market or while waiting in line at a vendor’s booth. Hand sanitizing stations will be provided within the market, and customers will be asked to be diligent in frequently cleaning their hands.

• Customers will not be allowed to touch any product before it is purchased. The vendor will place purchases in a single-use bag and will not be allowed to use any bag a customer brings to the market.

• SSFM organizers ask that customers limit browsing time and use the market as a product pick-up destination when possible. Customers are encouraged to limit their time at the market by pre-ordering as much as possible with those vendors providing that option. A list of vendors providing online orders will be posted on the SSFM Facebook page, and at the market’s website, southshorefarmersmarket.com. Information will be posted close to the start of the market season. Each vendor will have its own methods concerning the way pre-orders will be facilitated.

• If a customer—or anyone in their household—is not feeling well, SSFM organizes ask that they please stay home. COVID-19 safety guidelines recommend that customers who have been sick must be free of fever for at least 72 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication), have improvement in respiratory symptoms (e.g., cough, shortness of breath), and that at least seven days have passed since symptoms first appeared.

Vendor Guidelines

• All vendors must operate 15 feet apart from one another and are required to wear face masks.

• All vendors and their employees who are ill are not allowed at the market. To screen for illness, vendors, volunteers, and staff will complete a weekly self-assessment checklist provided by Milwaukee County.

• At least two vendor employees must be at each vendor table, with one handling money and another handling produce or prepared food.

• Vendors must use barrier tables—an extra thee-foot-wide table that will be set up between the customer and the product.

• Customers should plan to put a cash payment on the barrier table and let the vendor pick it up. This limits the contact of the farm staff to prevent any possible transmission from or to customers.

• Only the vendor or their employee may handle the product before a purchase is completed.

• Single-use bags will be packed by the vendor.

• Vendors are required to clean/sanitize/disinfect surfaces including tables and tablecloths before the market opens.

• Vendors are required to regularly use hand sanitizer and single-use gloves where needed.

• Providing samples will not allowed.

• All prepared foods must be sold in “to-go” packaging.

Market welcomes FoodShare

Market organizers announced that this year for the first time since its launch in 1998, SSFM will accept payments made with FoodShare benefits, Wisconsin’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The market is partnering with the Bay View Community Center (BVCC) to institute the program.

According to the U.S. government’s Benefits.gov website, “The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest federal nutrition assistance program. SNAP provides benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families via an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. This card can be used like a debit card to purchase eligible food in authorized retail food stores.” In Wisconsin it is known as the QUEST card.

“With an increased number of folks applying for FoodShare during the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to make sure farmers markets across Milwaukee County are safe places for shoppers to use their benefits,” said Extension Healthy Communities Coordinator Meg Kilkenny, in a press release about the 2020 farmers market season.

The Milwaukee Farmers Market Coalition (MFMC) is working to ensure that SNAP/EBT programs at farmers markets operate in a safe manner this season. The MFMC is cofacilitated by FoodWIse Extension Milwaukee County and Fondy Food Center. The coalition works to increase access to and use of farmers markets by low-income shoppers by making markets a welcoming and inclusive space for all.

How it works

Because many vendors don’t have the technology at their booth to process the card, SSFM will exchange FoodShare benefits for tokens. Customers will use their tokens to purchase eligible food items. Mike Mortell, president and CEO of the Bay View Community Center said that other Milwaukee markets, including Fondy, use the token
system. “It’s really great for community members who use FoodShare,” he said, noting they will have access to fresh food which will provide more customers for the market’s farmers, especially beneficial during the economic duress of the pandemic.

Additionally, another set of tokens will be available for customers who want to use a credit or debit card at the market. These non-Quest-based tokens can be used to purchase any market item and will be offered as a convenience for customers who who don’t want to use cash, Mortell said.

BVCC is seeking volunteers to assist with the token exchange each Saturday at the market. Mortell said he hopes a number of people will participate so the same volunteers “hopefully would not have to be at the market every Saturday.”

Additional changes customers can expect to see at the market:

• Additional staff
• Smaller vendor booths
• No entertainment
• No restroom availability. Currently Milwaukee County is required to keep the restrooms locked, so plan accordingly.

The South Shore Farmers Market organizers are optimistic that the market will once again be a place for people to support Wisconsin farmers and food producers, purchase nutritious food, and an opportunity to “spend some precious time outdoors.”

“We wish that we could hold the same type of market the community has come to enjoy over the years, a place for neighbors to connect and gather with friends and family,” said Stephanie Harling. “However, the required modifications to this year’s market operations are substantial and will create a very different experience.”

All the pandemic-related changes increase the need for volunteers. Anyone who is interested in helping out at the market is encouraged to use the SSFM Facebook page’s Messenger to privately communicate with market staff members.

“We thank everyone in advance for understanding that these are special times,” said Anne Hippensteel. “We thank you for working together to do what we can to help stop the spread. Stay strong Bay View — stay healthy. We’ll get through this together.”

The South Shore Farmers Market is planned and governed by a volunteer committee. The committee members include Susan Boyle, Mark Budnik, Mary Beth Driscoll, Brigid Globensky, Stephanie Harling, Amy Mihelich, Kurt Mihelich, Kathy Mulvey, Mike O’Toole, and Angie Tornes. SSFM managers are Ann Hippensteel  and Chad VanDierendonck.

To learn more about volunteering or the exchange process click here, or contact BVCC, info@bayviewcenter.org

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