Thanks to many farmers’ markets located across Wisconsin, the state’s consumers have ample opportunities to purchase fresh, locally grown and produced foods – often directly from the hand of the farmer.
“I think farmers’ markets have grown (in both number and popularity in Wisconsin) because more people are wanting to shake the hand and see the face of the person growing their food,” says Kietra Olson, program manager for the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection’s Wisconsin Foods Program. “Developing a relationship with your farmer is really a rewarding connection. People are also realizing that the carrots grown down the road and the honey harvested in the next town
over tastes more like ‘home.’”
Connecting With Consumers
One of the state’s most prominent farmers’ markets is the Downtown Appleton Farm Market, a year-round market that’s held on Saturdays. The market, a local favorite since its creation in 1992, is home to more than 150 vendors from June to October – its busiest season – and includes a Kids Market where young entrepreneurs sell their handmade items every third Saturday from January through May.
Established in 1972, the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison is also continuing to thrive, maintaining its status as the nation’s largest producers-only farmers’ market. The market’s vendors, all of whom are based in Wisconsin, are required to grow or raise the products they’re selling, which ensures everything customers come across is produced in Wisconsin.
As a year-round operation, the Dane County Farmers’ Market hosts multiple markets throughout the year. The Saturday market on the Square and the Wednesday market are both held from April to November, along with a holiday market open during November and December and a late winter market from January to April. The Saturday market on the Square is the largest of the four markets, encircling the Wisconsin State Capitol and featuring about 150 to 175 vendors selling fruits, vegetables, dairy products, meats, honey, jams, jellies and more.
“We have more than 20,000 visitors each Saturday at the Saturday market on the Square,” says Sarah Elliott, market manager for the Dane County Farmers’ Market. “It’s a big event, and we provide resources like recipes, because we want people to feel empowered to use local products for scratch cooking. Of course, the greatest resources of all are the producers. Customers can have conversations with farmers about how they like to prepare and eat the foods they’re selling, and that is really special.”