Jason Maloney For Agri-View
HERBSTER, Wis. – Sometimes we just do not see the good in the familiar. We tend to take some things for granted. But when we look closely we can see just how important the familiar can be.
With warm weather comes farmers markets. Across Wisconsin farm markets have been renewing the relationship between farmers and consumers. Though often overlooked in the overall scheme of the food supply, in the United States farm markets fill an important role.
“Farmers Markets are social events that build, support and link urban and rural communities by fostering economic opportunities, creating public space and vitalizing neighborhoods,” according to a peer-reviewed paper. “More specifically, markets connect citizens as neighbors, consumers, producers and community groups to the food system providing opportunities for social interaction, commerce, entertainment and information transfer.
“Bringing people together at markets can directly benefit public health by providing a source of healthy foods as well as fostering a social atmosphere that promotes interaction, education and potentially positive behavior change. Farmers Markets provide opportunities for people to learn about food, where it comes from and how to prepare it. … The search for authenticity and connection to food and agriculture has created a cultural momentum heightening the demand for quality local foods produced using environmentally and socially conscious methods. ” – “The Economic, Social, and Environmental Impacts of Farmers Markets: Recent Evidence from the US,” published by MDPI of Basel, Switzerland.
Axel Peterman-Spreen manages the farm market in Ashland, Wisconsin.
“The farm market is a crucial avenue for local producers to get their produce and products directly to consumers,” he said. “More money stays in the farmer’s pocket because there is no series of ‘middlemen’ between farmers and consumers. The farm market provides a gathering space for our community.
“We need a family-friendly space where people can hang out, talk, meet their farmers and have a good time. Many cities are short on those kinds of spaces. ”
The Ashland Area Farmers Market is held Saturday mornings on a downtown street. Restaurants, a bakery and stores are nearby. Live music is often played during the market.
The US Department of Agriculture maintains an online local-foods directory that lists the thousands of farm markets that are held all across the nation. Using data from the 2017 Agricultural Census and other data from the USDA, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition estimates there have been annual sales of about $ 2.4 billion at farmers markets nationally.
Farmers markets in the United States have traditionally traded food for cash. But according to the Farmers Market Coalition, “more than 3,390 markets accept Women, Infant and Children (WIC) Farmers Market Nutrition Program vouchers. (And) 4,590 markets participate in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program. In 2015 the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service reported that more than $ 38 million was spent on farm markets through those two programs alone. ”
People are also reading…
• In Wisconsin many folks find local food with the help of the Farm Fresh Atlas. The atlas is published annually as a free booklet. Information in the atlas is also available online. Consumers looking for locally produced foods can find information on farm markets, community-supported-agriculture subscriptions, farms, restaurants and events in the atlas. Visit farmfreshatlas.org for more information.
• Another source is the Wisconsin Farmers Market Association, which was created by market managers from across the state to encourage and support locally produced foods and products. Learn food facts, check seasonal availability of food and find markets. Visit www.wifarmersmarkets.org and www.facebook.com/WisconsinFarmersMarketAssociation for more information.
Tim Duis and Erin Sullivan run Kiddlywink Farm near Herbster. The farm produces flowers, vegetables and eggs. And they manage the farmers market in nearby Cornucopia, Wisconsin.
“We’re far from the grocery store; the nearest large stores are in Ashland and Superior (Wisconsin) or Duluth (Minnesota), ”Duis said.
That’s about an hour’s drive.
“People can stock up on staples like grains but they run out of fresh vegetables,” he said.
Sullivan said, “Especially during the pandemic people were appreciative of the open-air farm market in Corny (Cornucopia). You might not expect a contingent of local farmers and customers to come week after week, but we have a devoted group of people in our area.
“Before we moved here the market was also a potluck get-together on the beach. Now the market is held outside the coffee shop on Superior Street. On Thursdays from 4 to 6 (pm) there is music and the market. It’s a community event. Of course tourists show up too. People come with coolers, buy veggies, and stay for dinner and music. ”
All across Wisconsin farm markets are renewing the direct link between farmers and consumers. At the same time the markets are providing education, culture and society for city dwellers and country folks alike. It turns out that as familiar as they are, farm markets are doing a lot of good… maybe more good than we knew.
Visit www.usdalocalfoodportal.com for the USDA’s Local Food Directory. Visit farmersmarketcoalition.org for more information on the Farmers Market Coalition.
Visit facebook.com and search for “Kiddlywink Farm” for more information.
This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.
Jason Maloney is an “elderly” farm boy from Marinette County, Wisconsin. He’s a retired educator, a retired soldier and a lifelong Wisconsin resident. He lives on the shore of Lake Superior with his wife, Cindy Dillenschneider, and Red, a sturdy loyal Australian Shepherd.