Professor of Native American studies Beth Rose Middleton spends her Saturdays working shifts with her family at Niknek Lemonade, a giant, lemon-shaped stand that frequents the Davis Farmers Market and UC Davis student events.
Niknek means “My mother’s lemonade” in Mountain Maidu, a native language of California, and is owned by Middleton’s husband, Danny Manning (Tosidum Maidu, Diné), who is also assistant fire chief for the Greenville Rancheria, a northern California Maidu and Wintu Tribe. The lemon was custom ordered from Minnesota to fit Californian regulations and can be transported long distances as a trailer.
They started selling lemonade in 2020 when Middleton was department chair, and the stand was a welcome reprieve from her duties in academia. “Between teaching, mentoring, grant writing, research, and administration, taking a break to do something productive and family-oriented is really positive,” she said.
Middleton attends Native American gatherings and celebratory events like Big Times and powwows with her family, traveling from the Bay Area to tribal lands in the foothills with the lemon in tow. Locally, Middleton spends almost every weekend at the Davis Farmers Market, sourcing ingredients from other vendors and running into her friends, colleagues and students. “The farmers market is a very nice community. I’m just happy to see them,” she said.
Currently, the family is saving up to expand the business and buy her sister-in-law another stand. “My husband always says it brings joy. It makes people smile to see a giant lemon,” Middleton said.