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From Farm to Market; Wisconsin's Backroads Bounty
Posted on: 7/1/2010
Wisconsin is a state that loves good food – so we grow lots of it. A trip down a quiet country lane here is an invitation to something completely different; completely natural, and completely good for you.
There’s nothing better than farm-fresh produce steaming on the stove or crisping in the fridge. Wisconsin has a long tradition of marketing direct to the family dining table. Take your pick at farmers’ markets or roadside stands across the Badger state.
Many Wisconsin cities and towns host regular municipal farmer’s markets. Stands are set-up in parking lots or along main streets where eager city folk can peruse the produce. Most markets are scheduled on Saturday mornings from June through October, but some extend to other days and times. Several larger cities host more than one farm market; the Milwaukee metro area regularly schedules more than a dozen.
Perhaps the best-known of Wisconsin’s farm markets is the Dane County Farmer’s Market held in Madison on the outer concourse of the city’s State Capitol Square. Each Saturday morning, May through October, tens of thousands of city residents and visitors travel the Square delighted by a tantalizing tableau of fresh produce and bakery.
As the harvest season sweeps through Wisconsin, roadside produce stands open faster than presents on Christmas. Starting with asparagus in May, a parade of produce fills these roadside farm stands through October with fresh vegetables, berries, cut flowers, and much more.
These roadside stands are an opportunity to cash-in on good food at great prices. Most are operated by farm families - youngsters with 4-H and FFA projects - and their parents trying to stretch the farm economy. They offer good value and genuine hospitality. Look for their hand-painted signs and their friendly smiles.
Wisconsin grows a variety of fruit including apples, cherries, cranberries, pears, grapes, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. Pick-your-own orchards and berry patches are scattered across the state; or buy them pre-picked and packaged by the grower. Either way, you’ll enjoy the freshest and tastiest fruit available.
Wisconsin growers cultivate more than two dozen varieties of apples, grown in virtually every corner of the state. While most orchards are clustered in southern and central Wisconsin, the Bayfield Peninsula in far northern Wisconsin and the Door County Peninsula in northeastern Wisconsin are prime apple producers. Both benefit from a weather phenomenon called “lake effect” which warms and extends their growing seasons well into the fall. Other prime apple-growing areas include Gays Mills/Richland Center in southwestern Wisconsin; the greater Madison area in south-central Wisconsin, and the Chippewa Falls/Eau Claire area in northwestern Wisconsin.
Door and Kewaunee Counties, which form Wisconsin’s “thumb,” are national leaders in the production of red tart cherries. Springtime in the orchards brings visitors by the thousands to view the profusion of pastel blossoms in the area’s cherry and apple orchards. In the fall, folks return for the bountiful harvest. Both are special times in a very special place.
Cranberries are Wisconsin’s number one fruit crop. Wisconsin growers produce 260 million pounds of fruit annually – more than forty percent of the nation’s total. Cranberries are one of only three fruits native to Wisconsin. Today, they are grown in 19 of the state’s 72 counties. Their production is centered near Wisconsin Rapids, Black River Falls, Warrens, and Tomah in central Wisconsin; and near Manitowish Waters, Eagle River, Spooner, and Hayward in northern Wisconsin. Many of these communities offer special tours of their cranberry marshes at harvest time.
Whether you buy it at urban farm markets or from a farm stand down that quiet country road, Wisconsin fruit and produce are part of what makes us special. Taste it all – and take some home with you.
For a complete list of farm markets in Wisconsin visit SavorWisconsin.com.This entry was posted in Things to Do