Day in the life of a farmers’ market vendor
Meet two of the 270 market members
Both Jeff Ford, owner of Cress Spring Bakery, and David Nedveck, co-owner of The Flower Factory, are long-standing members of the Dane County Farmers’ Market. Ford joined as a member in 1996 and Nedveck joined in 1985.
Starting with the first market of the season on the Square until September or October, Nedveck gets up at 3:30 a.m. to start setup around 4:30 a.m. Some vendors travel distances even farther than Nedveck, who travels from Stoughton.
The Flower Factory starts selling its perennial garden plants as soon as Nedveck finishes setting up around 6 a.m. at his spot at the top of Martin Luther King Boulevard across from Starbucks. From then on, he says, it’s nonstop.
“It’s a long day. It’s a lot of talking. It’s a lot of standing, a lot explaining, a lot of questions answered. It’s great fun nonetheless,” Nedveck says.
Ford opens his booth by 6:30 a.m. between Wisconsin Avenue and State Street on Mifflin Street. Cress Spring Bakery, based in Blue Mounds, specializes in sourdough breads and other goodies that don’t use commercial yeast. Not only does he work the farmers’ market, Ford does a fair amount of shopping at the market for Cress Spring’s produce.
“We have always focused on buying our ingredients as locally as possible,” Ford says. “We’re buying as much as we can from farmers. We’re buying our grains direct from Wisconsin farmers. We’re milling our own flour.”
Nedveck says throughout market day he sees many returning customers who have become “extended family.” He gets insight from his customers, which in turn helps him provide better products, he says. On top of that, customers are guaranteed to get plants that grow well in Wisconsin and a chance to ask growers questions.
“If you ask questions – about this garden plant, what it’s going to do for you, where you should plant it, how you should plant it, what the requirements are and what you’d expect and what you should get from it – you get those answers right then and there,” Nedveck says.
Ford says that over the years, farmers have expanded what’s available year-round. As a Late Winter Market participant, he sees fresh lettuce and spinach among other products that weren’t available years ago. Now, he says cultivating local food networks is incredibly important.
“I think the days of shipping food all over the world and having everything available whenever we want it, it’s a luxury that we won’t be able to afford within a more couple decades. So I think cultivating those sort of local food networks is more important than ever,” Ford says.
To learn more about all 270 members of DCFM, visit dcfm.org.
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