Across the state Farmers’ Markets are opening up this month. Two weeks ago the incomparable Dane County Farmers’ Market opened and this Saturday several more will open up for the season including the Waukesha Farmers’ Market, held downtown along the Riverfront.
While I love visiting other markets in the area, especially the Dane County Market at the Capitol Square, I visit my local market in Waukesha almost every week. Each season I have noticed more vendors, a wider variety of products, and most importantly, larger crowds. Last season was definitely the best, but not content to rest on last year’s successes, the Waukesha Farmers’ Market should be bigger and better than ever this season.
A recent study done by the UW Extension looked at the economic impact of Farmers’ Markets on communities and found that the Waukesha market generated an additional $325,000 in sales at other downtown businesses. I know that when I go to the market in Waukesha I end up spending money at places like Sprizzo or the Steaming Cup for coffee and breakfast, Panos for Mexican staples and discount Liquor for beer. If you spend an additional $10 -20 it may seem inconsequential, but if many other market customers are also spending $10 -20 downtown, week after week, it really adds up. The study can be found here http://www.uwex.edu/ces/quad/projects/markets.cfm
Anyhow, with the start of the season I figured I would ask Joanna Adamicki, Marketing Manager for the Waukesha Business Improvement District and Manager for the Farmers’ Market a couple of questions about this year’s market and she graciously agreed to answer them.
What new things (vendors, demonstrations, etc) can we expect this season? We’ve got some great new vendors coming, a yarn vendor, another that produces baked goods and seasonal jams with organic ingredients, a goat cheese vendor, a maple syrup vendor, and a cheese vendor that will be selling same day production cheese curds. Of course there are the perennial favorites, hand made goats milk soap, the best artisan breads, delish bakery, naturally raised meats.
Why do you think the market was so popular last season? How do you plan on building on that success? I think the Market has grown in popularity first with the customers because people seem to be interested in buying local. Not only does it support the local economy, but the food is better. Those apples we’re buying at the grocery store have been traveling a long time. I read it was estimated that the average American meal travels about 1,500 miles to get from farm to plate. Not great for the environment. Market-goers also get to talk to the farmers and find out how they farm, what they put on their products, etc. That’s important to me as a consumer and I believe many others as well. Finally, the food just tastes better. The tomatoes you buy at the Waukesha Farmers’ Market were probably picked that morning or late the night before. The one from the grocery store got picked when it was green. Not so great on a BLT.
We’ll build on the success of the Market by promoting is as much as possible, but we’re also relying on our customers to tell their friends how great the Waukesha Farmers’ Market is, what a lovely setting it’s in, and what a beautiful downtown it’s a part of.
Kind of playing off question two, in general why do you think farmers markets in general are becoming so popular? Again, I’d say it’s because people like knowing where the products they buy are coming from; it’s important to them that they are local. Last year, the Waukesha Market was part of an economic impact study done by UW-Waukesha. They discerned that the Market had an economic impact of more than $325K on downtown Waukesha. It’s clear, people want to buy local and keep their dollars in the community.
What can people expect for opening day this Saturday? Are there any special events or attractions? We’ll kick off the Market with Community Day at the Market. The Market will be open from 7 am until noon, Community Day activities will take place from 9 to 11 am. People can expect to see the Waukesha Police, Fire, and Sheriff’s Departments, the Canadian Pacific Railway kiddie train, the County Parks with a putting green, and more. Moms will get a free Market bag, and the kids can plant sunflowers in the Kids Corner.
Are there plans to partner with all the great restaurants downtown for demonstrations? Yes, we are working with all of the restaurants to have their chef’s come out and take part in the cooking demos. It’s a great way for people to talk to the chefs at their favorite local restaurants, learn how to cook the fabulous local produce, and pick up a cooking trick or two.
I thought I read that you had gone to some farmer’s market conference. What things from that conference do you plan on implementing this season? Yes, I did attend a study tour of the San Francisco farmers markets. Some things I am looking at are better branding and signage. We’ve got a great Market, we just need to attract more people to make it a regular stop on Saturday.
Are there things you have seen at other markets that you would like to eventually implement in Waukesha? We’re doing a lot of things right at the Waukesha Market. Our popularity is building. At some point, we may look at making the Market larger to allow for more vendors. A Friends of the Market group that would be willing to volunteer at the Market and help to make it more self sufficient is also on my to-do list.
The Waukesha Farmers’ Market is held every Saturday, rain or shine, from 7am to noon, through the end of October. It is held at Riverfront Plaza (Baxter St), just south of the Fox River between Broadway and Barstow. All products sold at the Waukesha Farmers’ Market are grown, raised or made in Wisconsin. Market goers can expect to find in-season fresh vegetables and fruits, locally-grown herbs and plants, breads and pastry products, jams, hand made soaps, artisan cheese, naturally raised meats and some locally made art and craft items.