While there are technically four seasons in Wisconsin, one could say that a fifth — farmer’s market season — also exists. For many of our state’s residents and visitors, there’s no better feeling than heading to a local open-air market, or favorite fruit and vegetable stand on a quiet road, and stocking up on the best fruits and veggies these next six months have to offer.
Looking to make sure you’re always taking advantage of our state’s rich agricultural heritage, while keeping your refrigerator and pantry stocked with the bounty of the season? Here’s a great overview of when — and where — your favorite produce is available in Wisconsin. (Note: depending on this year’s growing season, these date ranges may vary.)
Availability: Mid-August through October
According to the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association, the reason why our state’s apples taste so good is the combination of our sun, soil, and rain, infused with our warm summer days and crisp autumn nights. As a result, apple varieties — and places to find them — abound.
Gays Mills, the Apple Capital of Wisconsin, boasts several orchards, including Kickapoo Orchards, while Cottage Grove’s Door Creek Orchard boasts an impressive 87 different varieties of apples. In the upper half of the state, Rush River Orchard offers pick-your-own apples and hayrides around the orchard, and Bayfield’s Erickson Orchard has been family-owned and operated since 1954.
Availability: May through mid-June
Fresh, in-season asparagus is so good, true enthusiasts will eat it right out of the garden. And when true enthusiasts are also farmers, you get Spears-R-Us. Steve and Karen Stalker — who have the perfect last name for asparagus farmers — converted their hunting land into the asparagus-only farm, located in Adams.
Availability: Early July through mid-August
Plenty of farms, especially those in the upper half of the state, grow blueberries. Chet’s Blueberry Farm in Stevens Point, a you-pick farm, has eight different blueberry varieties to choose from. Rush River Produce, located on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border, has 14 varieties, along with a limited season of currants and gooseberries. In Bear Creek, Blueberry Haven offers pick-your-own berries in addition to showing up at several farmer’s markets in nearby Chilton and Kaukauna.
Availability: Mid-July through mid-August
It’s tough to talk about cherries in Wisconsin without focusing on Door County — where the geography and climate are perfect for cherries, especially the tart Montmorency. Sturgeon Bay’s Robertson Orchards is a fifth-generation farm with pick-your-own or already-picked options. Further up the peninsula, Lautenbach’s Orchard Country offers guided walking tours of the cherry orchards — and the chance to give it your best shot at the Cherry Pit Spit. Sister Bay’s Seaquist Orchard produces six million pounds of cherries a year, giving visitors the opportunity to purchase fresh, frozen, and dried cherries as well as a variety of baked goods.
Availability: September through October
Wild cranberries are native to the marshlands of Central Wisconsin, and today the industry centers around Tomah, Warrens, and Wisconsin Rapids. Wetherby Cranberry Company promises plenty of fresh and dried cranberries, as well as a public harvest day where visitors can see the cranberry beds in action. Cranberry farms aren’t just limited to this area, though — Eagle River’s Lake Nokomis Cranberries has fresh cranberries as well as delicious cranberry-infused jams, mustards, cheeses, and other products.
Availability: Late March through May
Ah, the elusive — and delicious — morel. It’s nearly impossible to report where to find them, as morel mushroom hunters like to keep their picking spots private. There are always several hunters selling at the Dane County Farmers Market — the largest open-air market in the nation. Also, look for small containers of these in roadside stands across the state, particularly in northern Wisconsin, where the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the Brule River State Forest are prime morel foraging territory.
Availability: July through October, depending on variety
There’s something calm and satisfying about working through a tangle of bramble to find ripe raspberries — and it also makes for a great family activity. Henke’s Upick Raspberries in Jackson offers pick-your-own from August through late frost, while Blue Skies Berry Farm in Brooklyn grows raspberries as their primary crop, using organic methods. In central Wisconsin, Lakeview Berry Farm offers the opportunity to pick raspberries in almost every color of the rainbow — red, gold, purple, and black — as well as currants and gooseberries.
Availability: May through late June
Rhubarb, along with asparagus, is one of the first signs of local produce in Wisconsin — and our state’s climate and soil make it easy to grow. There’s no shortage of local farm stands and farmer’s markets that sell these tart green and rose-colored stalks — grab a bunch and make them into crisp, cake, or compote.
Availability: June through early July
A quart of perfectly ripe strawberries is a thing of beauty, and in Wisconsin, there’s no shortage of places you can find them. A tip: always buy twice as many, as you’ll eat your first quart on the way home. Kirschbaum’s Strawberry Farm is so popular they have a Berry Hotline where anxious pickers can check on current conditions. Carandale Fruit Farm, located just outside of Madison, offers both you-pick and pre-picked berries, and in Door County, Malvitz Bay Farms delivers succulent berries in addition to a slew of other fresh fruit and veggies.
Availability: July through September
Chances are if you see a Wisconsin cornfield in June, you’re looking to see if it will be knee-high by the 4th of July. We love our sweet corn here, and with good reason — it’s the food that embodies summer. At Sunny Hill Farm in Green Bay, the corn is so good that it has a devoted following. Delavan’s Sweet Corn Lady & Daughters has a famous “try before you buy” policy so you know just how tasty the corn is in addition to the other fruits and veggies at her famous stand, and Stoneman’s Famous Sweet Corn in Fitchburg is picked fresh by hand every morning to sell at their on-farm stand and at the Fitchburg Farmers Market.
Still hungry? Enjoy a meal that's as fresh as it gets at these Wisconsin Pizza Farms!