Baylee (she/they), Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, knew they wanted to give back to the community when they came to Copenhagen. With a previously solidified passion for volunteering, they embraced opportunities around the city — read on to learn more about Baylee’s time exploring Copenhagen’s local food scene while lending a hand at Grønt Marked.
Early in the semester, I started volunteering with Grønt Marked, a local farmers market in Copenhagen that supports small local producers. I wrote about the first market I helped with in an earlier post. Since then, I have participated in several markets throughout the semester. As a result, I have connected with many people within the Grønt Marked community who have shared their knowledge and passion for bettering the Copenhagen food system. Similarly, I have learned how vital this market and its volunteers’ contribution is to changing the shopper-producer relationship to a more positive and intimate experience. Especially because the current state of the market that I have experienced this semester is a direct reflection of the hard work and dedication that has been put into the market by the original founders and vendors.
What is the Grønt Marked?
After noticing a gap in consistent access to quality produce in the Copenhagen food system, friends at Lille Bakery decided to put together Copenhagen’s first monthly farmer’s market. The result has been a change in local culture by establishing a place where people could shop for their food directly from the producers. By providing an alternative way to shop, the hope is to incorporate small producers with sustainable and biodynamic practices into a healthier food system and create a closer producer-consumer relationship where you know exactly what you are eating.
Since the Lille team got the market off the ground, the Grønt Marked has turned into a community of volunteers, producers, and friends that make each market happen, rain or shine (and Copenhagen doesn’t have great weather all the time, so believe me when I say rain or shine). The market is a collaborative project that relies on engagement from food and sustainability enthusiasts, where we work together with a shared mindset to reach a common goal. This year the market has branched out to be three times a month at three different locations (Refshaleøen, Vesterbro, and Nørrebro), now reaching more communities and providing more opportunities to stop by.
Being a part of this market this semester has hands down been a highlight experience, and I felt that I was not going to do the market justice by solely talking about my singular short-term perspective. So I recruited some long-time vendors to enlighten me (and subsequently you) on how the market has evolved over the years and how the market is changing the Copenhagen food system.
Selling mainly fresh eggs and honey, Søagergård is a small-scale farm focused on regenerative agriculture and sustainability, selling at the market for two years. When chatting with the procedure, he described what “regenerative agriculture” is and how that is essential to protecting animal welfare on their farm. Regenerative agriculture relies on the animal’s instincts to regenerate the soil, where animal byproduct is used to fertilize and reinvigorate the soil. But farm animals can significantly impact the land by depleting its resources before it can regenerate more. So this farm cycles the animals to different areas of land, providing the animals with healthy and nutritious organic food sources while allowing the previous soil to rest and rebuild native grass and species growth. This practice preserves the land to increase the usable years of the land while also sustaining a native environment that can reduce the farm’s carbon output.
When I asked how being a producer at the market has changed the consumer-producer relationship, he stated how important he found having that connection to fulfilling their goals as a farm. While it is less labor and easier to build the business to sell to shops and restaurants, he felt that doing that would lose the connection to educate consumers about their products. Their farm’s sustainable practices are unique, making for a quality product. But he stated that a relationship with the customer is the best way to explain that “…animals have a very important role to play and can be kept much better than people’s perception… people appreciate how we raise the animals.”
Copenhagen Goat Milk
Copenhagen Goat Milk is one of the original Grønt Marked vendors and some of the kindest people I have ever met. They make almost everything you can think of with goat; milk, various kinds of cheese, ice cream, dulce de leche, and more. I was curious how they viewed the market over the years and what their experience has been like. They described how the community of producers has changed to become true to people that grow or make the products locally. So they fit right in by also being a specialized local mini-farm but offering something unique. This producer community has also become more established and professional over the years, making the market a robust and reliable contributor to the food system. They noted that consumer growth has also grown, both in attendance numbers and repetition frequency, due to the connection consumers can have with market producers and the planners’ hard work to advertise the market.
“What we are doing is a drop in the ocean, but maybe what we are doing can inspire other and bigger producers to do the same.”
If you have seen these guys at a market, then you know they are happy to let you try samples of their products. And when I asked about how selling at the market affects the producer-consumer relationship compared to selling to restaurants, they said they really enjoy seeing people love their product. Not only can they educate people about their product, but they can also see the reward of people who like their product’s quality. In addition, their farm practices holistic grazing for their goats to reduce carbon emissions, similar to what Søagergård does on their farm. And while there are challenges to these sustainable practices and extra effort required to sell directly to the customer, they stated that “what we are doing is a drop in the ocean, but maybe what we are doing can inspire other and bigger producers to do the same.”
Most of the beautiful produce in my pictures comes from the Brinkholm stand. This long-standing Grønt Marked vegetable producer also practices small-scale farming with regenerative methods. When chatting with one of the Brinkholm producers, she showed so much passion for her work. She described the market as a great place to foster relationships and find “common language with the customers.” With the consistency of the markets, those connections become a common story shared between the producers and customers. For her, she found this market aspect reaffirming the mission of changing the Copenhagen food system in the face of the extra heavy work of being a local small farm. Like the goat farm producer, she references this community of producers that work together, learn from each other, and build resilience to the challenges of being a local producer.
Listening to her passion for her work was inspiring, and she had so much beautiful language to describe the market’s mission. When I asked about the consumer-producer relationship, she explained the need for that connection to show consumers another story about food. Producers act as storytellers to share their vegetables’ journey, change the narrative about what food can be, and show the impact that food has on the environment. Not only do consumers hear and see the quality of the food in this dynamic, but they also taste the food. Then with the increasing diversity in producers and locations of the markets, she noted how the market has been changing to become a place for everyone. With the change that has come to the market and the promising growth that is to come from the consistent hard work of the project, she stated Grønt Marked as a “new chapter for Copenhagen.”
I know I’ve already said it, but volunteering this semester with Grønt Marked has been a fantastic experience. There has been something fulfilling about contributing or giving back to a society that I feel that I have taken a lot from during my semester here. And the wholesome vibes of the market are something that I look forward to each weekend. While many DIS students volunteer with the market, I feel like I’ve connected to a supportive community of fellow volunteers and producers grounded in Copenhagen. Sustainability and food culture is something I have felt removed from back at home, and since I don’t academically study anything related to those subjects, it has not been easy to become involved in this interest. So I am sure grateful to the Grønt Marked community for welcoming me into this environment to pursue these interests in an enjoyable context. Finally, and most importantly, the volunteer culture within Grønt Marked has been rewarding. Developing relationships with the producers, feeling like a valued member of the project, and seeing people enjoy the market has significantly impacted how I view my overall semester in Copenhagen.
If you are interested in volunteering when they open back up in the spring and summer, check out the Grønt Marked website for more information or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Volunteering for this market has so many opportunities that are much more than just helping out the markets. They are highly interested in educating others and bringing together like-minded people, so they often have additional farm visits/dinners and volunteer social activities with good vibes!
Learn more about getting involved in Copenhagen