Insider Info: Shopping the Dane County Farmers' Market

Courtesy of Visit Madison

The food scene in the Greater Madison area has captured national attention! Some say the reason is as much based on geography as it is on the talent in our restaurant kitchens.

While farm-to-table may seem like the culinary trend of the moment, it is not just a foodie fad in our area; eating fresh and straight from the farm is a way of life here.

Seven to Shop  

During the outdoor market season (April through November), there’s at least one market every day of the week in the Greater Madison area. Choose your favorite based on geography; they’re all over town. Or, opt for convenience – with seven days of shopping to choose from, there are plenty of opportunities to stop on the way home.

The oldest and most famous of them all is the Dane County Farmers’ Market (DCFM) which ranked fifth in the Nation’s Best Markets by USA Today/ in 2015. The DCFM is certainly the oldest market in our area, but over the years, many more markets have come on the scene, capitalizing on our cravings for food that is freshly farmed.

Dane County Farmers’ Market

Nearly every Saturday since 1972, crowds of more than 20,000 shoppers swarm the grounds of the Capital Square for the DCFM. With more than 180 producers to choose from, you’ll be able to select from the freshest local ingredients. As the nation’s largest producer-only market, locals and visitors can fill their baskets with amazingly fresh and locally grown food, produce and preserves.

Pro Tips 

Get to the market early for local celebrity chef sightings. The market is heavily supported by Madison’s restaurant community, so you’re likely to spy some of Madison’s culinary elite self-selecting the week’s best offerings for their menus.  

Be sure to walk counter-clockwise in order to look like a local. While no one seems to know how this traffic pattern started, it is tradition and makes it a lot easier to get around the Square. Be sure to leave pets at home as the market only permits service animals on-site.

Strict producer-only rules govern who can sell at the DCFM. This means that the person selling the food must also be the grower/producer. Add to the equation that everything sold at the market has to be grown or produced in Wisconsin and you’ve taken the consumer trend of buying local to a whole new level! 

Imagine swapping recipes with the person who nurtured your veggie from seedling. Or challenging your culinary skills by learning how to slice, dice or prep an ingredient that you’re not familiar with. Add Midwestern hospitality to the mix, and you’ve got a great experience and one that you’ll want to return to again and again.


The DCFM opens at 6 a.m. and runs through 2 p.m. Keep in mind that some vendors do pack up and head home early if they sell out. A smaller version of the Saturday market can be found on MLK Jr. Boulevard in downtown Madison each Wednesday from April to November.

For more information on the Dane County Farmer’s Market, visit or

This entry was posted in Farmers' Markets