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SSR 5: Farmers Market with a Newbie

June 6, 2010


Ok. I’m going to be honest here for a second. I’m going to put myself out there and tell you a little piece of story that is may or may not qualify me as dorky, sappy, or just plain weird.  But that’s okay, right? 

After my flight was booked for the Madison trip, a few days after I had my confirmation email and had started composing Google document spreadsheets of timetables and plans, I had a moment of clarity.  During a gchat with Julie I realized – I was going to be in town for a farmers market Saturday. And I cried. Actual tears welled up in my eyes as I envisioned approaching the square coffee in hand eager to taste sweet and savory samples, smell gorgeous flowers, hear the vendors share their products, see the vibrant colors of produce on table tops, and feel the warmth of the sun as I walk one block after another, after another.  I cried over the idea of the farmers market. and if you don’t understand that, then you probably haven’t ever been to the Dane County Farmers Market.

The last few times I had been in town, it was not Farmers Market season, and I was definitely due for a morning around the capital. This specific farmers market trip was made extra special when I found out that I would get to bring Ashley for her very first Dane County Farmers Market experience.  Thinking back, I’m not sure I’d ever visited the market with a newbie since my first visit years ago, and I was excited to be able to share one of my favorite parts of Madison with someone new. The only rule I set for the visit was to follow Ashley’s lead. I made sure to point out my favorites along the way, and share what I knew about how the “locals do things” – but I didn’t want to hold Ashley back from her first experience.  And being able to face the time with a fresh perspective was an awesome experience for myself as well!


Ashley had to be at the expo before 8:30 AM, so we headed downtown very early, 6:30 AM. We started our journey around the square while a handful of vendors weren’t finished setting up yet, which gave as a unique experience of watching the market blossom over time. 

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The Dane County Famers Market is the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country. All items for sale are produced locally by the vendor behind the table and there is no resale allowed.


The farmers market is a year round event in Madison – but only outside of the capital from early summer through fall. The square offers a great bounty the season’s best produce, flowers, and specialty products from approximately 300 vendors throughout the year, around 150 who attend the market every Saturday. 

In my experience, I’ve never met a vendor who isn’t full of Midwestern charm, friendly and passionate about their product.  Each producer I spoke with on Saturday seemed genuinely happy to talk with me. 


Bloggers on the loose! Gotta love walking the square with someone who understands your desire to take photos every 3 seconds.  [Also, thanks to Ashley for swapping photos with me 🙂 My recaps are so much more fun thanks to you!]

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The vendors line the outside edge of the state capitol grounds. They sell agriculturally-related producer-only products from Wisconsin. The DCFM has strict rules for the market and has a waiting list of about three years for new vendors.


(i just love the faces of all the vendors in these photos!) 104_3508
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The interior of the state capitol grounds is used for non-profit, political, and public information booths and for various entertainment activities. Also, the Madison FarmWorks Capital Vegetable Garden lies in-between the two edges on one of the corners.


Across the street, arts & crafts vendors and concession stands are on city property. I purchased a Madison Farmers Market tote from one of the craft vendors as one of my souvenirs to take home with me.  I’ve used it every day since my purchase 🙂


A few other arts & craft vendors whose booths I enjoyed shopping at have online stores as well.  Check out these great Madison area artists!

Artsy Fartsy
Recreative Crafts
Space Oddities
Steinvika Designs
Bare Tree
LuSa Organics (review for product coming soon!)


A lot of different styles of music can be heard during your time at the farmers market.  A lot of street musicians play across the four streets around the square, adding to the festivities.


Best part of the Madison farmers market?  Taste testing!


The best product I tasted all day was when I was at my second trip around the square, later in the morning with some friends from high school. [Yes, I love DCFM so much I went TWICE in one day :)]   The Sun Gold Tomato Preserves from Tomato Mountain were TO DIE FOR.  I didn’t buy any on the spot because at the time I was planning on only traveling with carry on luggage home, but I was VERY excited to hear from the vendors that I could order their products online.  Check them out!


And I would just like to point out that one little vegan friend of ours took the following photos: 



You can read Ashley’s recap of the farmers market experience on her blog.


I was so lucky to get to spend a bit of time with a DCFM newbie on such a gorgeous Saturday morning.  It was a fabulous way to start a very full day in Madison. 

If you ever plan a trip to Madison, please please please look into a visit to the Farmers Market.  It’s a part of living there that I miss so much and an experience I wish upon everyone.  Getting there first thing in the morning assures you get first pick of what’s available but there is something to be said for going later in the morning, as well.  I remember many days of two for one pricing at the close of the Market, and gathering food for a picnic lunch on the Capital lawn with friends is never a bad idea!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Kati permalink
    June 6, 2010 9:08 pm

    I have NEVER been to the Farmer’s Market at 6:30am! I go every week (almost) and you’ve shared a new view for me. : ) PS I also LOVE bringing newbies to the market!

  2. June 6, 2010 9:59 pm

    This made me realize that I haven’t been to the downtown market in wayyyyy to long. Um. like possibly a year or two…… And you made it there twice in one day. Clearly I need to get my butt down there this summer!

  3. June 7, 2010 7:22 am

    Those preserves are the sole reason I am growing Sun Gold tomatoes in my new garden! Soooo good.

  4. June 9, 2010 2:17 pm

    Oh my gosh you don’t know how excited this recap just made me for my Farmer’s Market experience!!!! I can totally relate to how you feel about them…I’m the same way. And I can’t get over the pictures of flowers. Doesn’t it just make your heart sing?

  5. Jenn permalink
    June 10, 2010 9:20 am

    Fresh cheese curds. Yum.


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