“LIVE LAUGH LOVE,” a tin frog named Murphy holds a sign bearing this adage outside of Martha’s Joy pickle stand at Kingfield Farmers Market. The LIVE LAUGH LOVE philosophy also radiates from Martha Jackson, pickle-maker extraordinaire, and her husband David, who bring their combined 20+ years of pickling experience—and their lifelong sense of joy—to Kingfield’s market.
Martha began pickling leftover produce from her garden one year when an early frost loomed, and her family scrambled to pick everything before night fell and the freeze came. “We just didn’t want it to go to waste!” says Martha, chuckling at the memory. Her grandmother and great grandmother, who taught her pickling in Alabama, remain great inspirations to her. Though she’s “tweaked it over the years,” it is their recipe that is the basis of Martha’s Joy pickles today.
Another factor in the success of Martha’s Joy is legislation passed in 2005 in Minnesota: Chapter 28A.15 Subd.10. Known to most as the “Pickle Bill,” it allows home-canned foods with a low pH—including acidic foods like pickles—to be sold at farmers markets and other community events with reduced regulatory requirements, while continuing to provide a food safety standard that protects consumers.
Martha began selling at the downtown farmers market, but it felt “so congested, so busy.” She began looking for a smaller, less hectic market, and found the Kingfield neighborhood. Her business has blossomed both here and at the Midtown Farmers Market.
Martha firmly believes that running a creative small business like Martha’s Joy is “not work!. . . It’s just a great journey.” Making asparagus, beet, okra, hot pepper, and cucumber pickles, watching customer’s faces light up as they pop a pickled beet into their mouth, and being a part of Kingfield Farmers Market are all part of the package. “I just love it, look at the people!” exclaims Martha, throwing her arms wide. As David films from behind the video camera he uses to document the market goings-on, Martha laughs and says, “a day like today, a market like Kingfield, it’s beautiful!”
Many ask Martha where she gets the fruits and vegetables for her products. Not only is her recipe important, but the quality of the ingredients she uses is crucial for delicious pickles. The answer reveals much about the community Martha finds at the market. “I get it all from my neighbors.” She gestures broadly at the other market stalls. “We should be competitors, but we’re not!” The tomatoes, peppers, beets, and other produce are locally-grown, bought from fellow vendors. The okra is extra-special– it comes from a 75 year old woman in Hopkins, Minnesota, a friend of Martha’s, who has “been farming since she was fifteen.”
Martha takes pride in working to LIVE, LAUGH and LOVE through her pickles. Just like the first fall many years ago in which her family canned what would have gone to waste, Martha retains this ethic in her work. “I love to utilize everything . . . that’s why I can.”
© Hannah Rivenburgh for Kingfield Farmers Market