Janesville Farmers Market sells produce from young mother killed in crash
Mother left behind 5-month-old daughter
JANESVILLE, Wis. — Among the dozens of booths set up at the Janesville Winter Farmers Market on Saturday, there was one that had a very special meaning.
Laden with pie pumpkins, squash and Indian corn, the table also had a donation box filled with dollar bills.
To the right of the table stood a picture of a young woman smiling softly, Melissa Whitten.
“She was just always such a positive person, always smiling and always doing her best to make the customers happy and to make everybody smile,” farmers market manager Emily Arthur said of Whitten.
Arthur said Whitten had just started selling produce at the farmers market this season and quickly became a crowd favorite, especially with her 5-month-old daughter, Vanessa.
“She did start at the market when she was eight months pregnant, gave birth the next week actually and was back two weeks later with the baby,” Arthur said laughing. “So it was really great to have her down there.”
Arthur said Whitten had signed up to sell produce at the winter farmers market but tragically died in a car crash on Nov. 16. Her daughter was in the car at the time and, miraculously, was not hurt.
Whitten’s mother, Lisa Teeter, said the farmers market is where she loved to be.
“Melissa’s dream was to be at the farmers market and be a stay-at-home mom, and this was her new job,” Teeter said.
According to a news release from the farmers market, a friend of the family asked the board if they could sell the rest of the vegetables Whitten had grown to raise money for the family. The board offered to pick up the vegetables and sell them at the winter market with all the money going back to the family.
“I just want to thank the community for everything that they’ve done,” Teeter said. “There’s just been such a great outpour to help Vanessa and her dad with the breast milk, with the farmers market and with all, just the community prayers, cards and donations. We’re just truly blessed.”
In the days after Whitten’s death, friends and family used Facebook to request breast milk for Vanessa. A family friend told News 3 they had received more than 1,000 ounces of breast milk. They had so many donations, they couldn’t stock it all and created a waiting list. A GoFundMe page and special Facebook group called the Whitten Baby Emergency Assistance Group were also created for support.
Arthur said the farmers market raised more than $700 for the Whitten family.
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