Wisconsin Farmers' Market Spotlight

By Pat Dillon

As one of the top 10 agricultural producers in the U.S., Wisconsin grows a lot of green stuff with no shortage of farmers’ markets from which it is sold. That’s a bonus for travelers looking for fruit and vegetables that are family-farm fresh. Plus, many markets invite local artisans to sell their wares, have kiosks selling ready-made food and fresh bakery, and invite musicians to create a festive summer atmosphere. Wisconsin markets are teeming with happy faces and satisfied customers. Below we’ve listed a few notable farmers and the markets where you can find them, but there are hundreds more markets through which to forage in every corner of the state.

Robert Pierce manages the South Madison Farmers’ Market and owns Half the Forty Acres, a “minority-owned farming enterprise” that provides organic, affordable and healthy food to this diverse South Madison community. But the market’s four sites are more than a place to buy locally grown produce, flowers and baked goods. Each is also a place people congregate to hear culturally-rich local music and interact with neighbors and friends. You can also order weekly produce through The Market Basket program, a CSA-style program designed to connect urban consumers with small-scale, regionally grown food systems.

The Seaquist Family Orchard’s on-site farm market between Ellison Bay and Sister Bay has the greenest fruit on the Door County Peninsula. It sells sweet and tart apples, raspberries, apricots and pears, but is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it’s the largest tart cherry grower in Door County. But what makes it “green” is the Seaquist’s use of integrated pest management, a research-based system that closely monitors the elements that surround the orchards looking for ripe conditions to breed pests, and only apply pesticides then. Owner Jim Seaquist gives tours and educates guests for a small fee.

Oneida Nation Farmers’ Market is a one stop shop for organic produce grown on the reservation’s Community Supported Agriculture farm, Tsyunhehkwa, which means, in a broad sense, life sustenance. Here they have 25 acres of grass-fed cows, a solar greenhouse for herbs, a berry garden, and grow 20 acres of rotational crops including white corn, hay, pumpkins, fruits and vegetables. The Oneida Nation also has a pick-your-own organic apple orchard where integrated pest management process is also used to reduce the use of chemical pesticides.

The Dane County Farmers’ Market gets a lot of attention for being the largest producer-only market in the nation and a favorite Saturday morning destination for locals and tourists. It is producers like Mark Olson from the Renaissance Farm in Spring Green that make it a spot to which people come back. Olson farms all-natural basil on two to three acres and weeds by hand. His products have grown from all-natural pesto to super-premium, herb-infused olive oils and herb-infused vinaigrettes. But what really gets market goers swarming are Olson’s small batch cinnamon rolls that he hand-rolls himself. They often sell out, so get your coffee early and snatch one up before the crowd cleans out his supply! Takes place on the Capitol square.