Despite nature's best attempts to delay the arrival of all things edible, my favorite season has finally arrived: market season. Neighborhood markets across the city open this week and next, offering the most convenient source for local and sustainable foods. Almost every day of the week, a market is happening in some part of the city or surrounding area.
Farmers' markets are deeply rooted in American history and draw on European market traditions that date back hundreds of years. Markets have also been, and continue to be, a customary part of life in Asia, Africa and South America.
The first public market in the yet-unformed United States opened in Boston in 1634, and soon almost every city and town had at least one. Farmers' markets lost their centuries-long hold on American food sales in the 20th century. In the 21st century, however, they have reemerged, stronger than ever. And in visiting the many different Madison markets ' an activity I highly recommend ' it's easy to see why.
Neighborhood farmers' markets are more than just places to find food ' they are places to find community, a fact reflected in the range of vendors, events and activities that each of them offer throughout the season. Going to one is not going to all: Each has something unique to offer.
Here's a rundown of the weekly market scene.
Eastside Farmers' Market
Tues. 4-7 pm, May 8-Oct. 9
201 S. Ingersoll St.
Of note: Opening day features live music, an art cart for kids and a caricature artist.
Fitchburg Farmers' Market
Thurs. 3-6 pm, May 4-Oct. 26
Agora Pavilion, 5511 E. Cheryl Parkway
Of note: Live music weekly and events including Strawberry Fest, Summer Fest and Fall Fest.
Hilldale Farmers' Market
Wed. and Sat. 7 am-2 pm, May 5-Oct. 31
Hilldale Shopping Center, 702 N. Midvale Blvd.
Of note: Look for events to coincide with the May 11 opening of Sundance Cinemas 608.
Middleton Farmers' Market
Thurs. 8:30 am-1 pm, May 10 through sometime in October
Greenway Station, 1620 Deming Way
Of note: A new vendor will offer homemade dog food and biscuits.
Monona Farmers' Market
Sun. 9 am-1 pm, May 7-Oct. 29
Ahuska Park, East Broadway
Of note: Special promotions all season, including the day after Mother's Day, when mums get a free mum.
Northside Farmers' Market
Sun. 8:30 am-12:30 pm, May 6-Oct. 21
Northside TownCenter, Northport Drive at North Sherman Avenue
Of note: Eligible shoppers can use QUEST funds. Festivals held first Sunday of every month with food and entertainment; May 6 commemorates Cinco de Mayo with Mexican treats and music.
South Madison Farmers' Market (two sites)
At Labor Temple, 1602 S. Park St.:
Tues. 2-6 pm, May 1-Oct. 29
Sat. 9 am-2 pm, April 28-Oct. 29
At Villager Mall, 2300 S. Park St.:
Thurs. 2-6 pm, May 24-Oct. 29
Of note: An EBT machine for Forward, QUEST and debit card sales is available.
Westside Community Market
Sat. 7 am-1 pm, April 21-Nov. 3
Hill Farms Department of Transportation parking lot, 4802 Shebyogan Ave.
Of note: Seven new vendors this year sell kraut, herbs, cheese and pies, among other things.
And if you are traveling outside of the Madison area and yearning for some farm-fresh food, you can find farmers' markets located all over the state by consulting one of these regional Farm Fresh Atlases:
ueast, www.farmfreshatlasoew .org