'It's bittersweet': Dane County Farmers' Market producers reflect on end of outdoor season

First Holiday Market is Nov. 17

'It's bittersweet': Dane County Farmers' Market producers reflect on end of outdoor season

It's your last chance to grab some produce, fresh apples or other market staples on the Square. This weekend marks the end of the 45th season of the outdoor Dane County Farmers' Market.

Producers say it's bittersweet to see the outdoor season end, but it's nice to have some time off to recuperate, catch up on work at home, and reenergize for next year's 46th season. 

Vendors experienced some strange weather during the 2018 season. After a cold, windy start, record-breaking flooding and some weird October weather were hallmarks of the 2018 season.

Market Manager Sarah Elliot said vendor attendance hit its mark this year, averaging 150 vendors during the warmer months. Sept. 15 was this year's busiest market, thanks to highs in the '80s and an afternoon Badger game that day. 168 vendors lined the Square that Saturday.

The flooding in particular, however, had more of an impact on farmers before they got to the market, causing problems the average shopper may not have seen.

"I don't think it's hurt the crowds too much, but it might have kept a few people away," said Karl Geissbuhler, owner of Brunkow Cheese and longtime market vendor. "Locally, in our area, we had some pretty severe flooding. It certainly hampered the farmers as far as harvesting their crops. Luckily, things have dried out and they've been able to get out in the fields and get things done."

Before the wet fall, producers said the weather had made for a fantastic growing season.

Financially, producers say this year has been average for them: noting good sales, reasonable weather, and steady crowds.

"The most challenging part was the very first market. It was extremely windy, with snow flurries. There were just a handful of vendors here and basically no customers."

Geissbuhler said he prides himself on never missing a market, but wishes he skipped out on that one.

The magic of the Dane County Farmers' Market is that vendors don't have to tell organizers if they're coming or not, so shoppers never know exactly what they'll get. Elliot is expecting lower turnout for the final weekend, with forecasted highs in the '30s.

Anywhere from 50 to 75 vendors could be at the Nov. 10 market. But, as usual, those vendors are expecting their most devoted customers to come out one last time to stock up on some Wisconsin staples.

"You wouldn't think cheese in Wisconsin would be anything special, but customers appreciate the specialty cheese and that's what every cheesemaker here does: something a little different. Everybody has their niche. And it works out well for everybody," said Geissbuhler.

Although the outdoor market season is ending, you can still get your farmers' market fix. Organizers are getting ready for the holiday and late winter markets.

The Holiday Market starts Nov. 17, featuring more than 75 farmers, bakers and cheesemakers. There will be vegetables, flowers, meats, cheeses and other specialty products for sale.

In addition to the more traditional products, the holiday market offers wreaths, centerpieces, ornaments, and other holiday-themed goods.

The Holiday Market is open Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Monona Terrace, except for the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Nov. 22. The last holiday market is Dec. 22.

The late winter market and Taste of the Market breakfast at the Madison Senior Center starts Jan. 5 and ends April 6.

Dates for the 2019 outdoor market are already set: April 13- Nov. 9. Invitations have already been extended to 15 new vendors.


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