Peter Robertson, in red, at the RP's Pasta stand among the gathering tea partiers Saturday.
Demonstrating the same ingenuity shown by protesters flocking to Madison's Capitol Square over the last two months, Bryan and Emily Johnson were fashioning their umbrella into a political statement Saturday morning.
"We had a little 'A' problem," said Bryan as he applied the finishing touches in blue masking tape to his red umbrella, spelling out "Recall Republican 8." Like a lot of their fellow patrons of the first Dane County Farmers Market of the season, the Johnsons added a little political statement to their wardrobe. Having spent many of the last several weekends demonstrating on the Square or collecting signatures in recall campaigns, they've become accustomed to integrating politics with their everyday activities.
"We used to be sort of passively liberal," said Bryan. "But [the budget protests] really politicized us. We're almost like junkies now, reading as much as we can, but we've never been a part of anything like this before."
The Tax Day Tea Party complete with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as well as a corresponding counter rally, turned the opening day of the Dane County Farmers Market into a uniquely Madison blend of politics, locally-grown organic food and community interaction.
"It's just nice to see the people again," said Matthew Smith of Blue Valley Gardens in Blue Mounds, who was selling mushrooms, potatoes and frozen chickens to patrons clutching bouquets and/or protest signs.
Smith has had a stand at the market since 1984 and sets up every week. His stand, on the South Pinckney Street side of the Square, afforded him a pretty nice view of the King Street walkway where Tea Partiers were gathering.
"I look at it as a two-fer," he said. "You've got the tradition of the first market along with all this."
Smith is noticing that the market's crowd has been getting younger the past few years.
"College kids are becoming more interested in food now than drinking beer," he said.
Peter Robertson of RP's Pasta had an even better vantage point from his stand on East Main Street, across from Walgreen's.
"This is our regular spot," said Peter Robertson, indicating a growing, and increasingly loud, crowd of Tea Partiers and counter protesters nearby. "I thought, I'm not moving because of that."
RP's has been at the market for 17 years and Robertson is noticing that the local food movement is having a very noticeable influence on his customers.
"Every year the consumer is happier to buy direct as the local foods movement continues to grow," he said. "And I don't think it's as big as it's going to get."
RP's Pasta is available in a lot of local grocery stores, but the market allows Robertson to offer products you can't find anywhere else. And he finds that many of his market regulars get a lot of their groceries on the Square instead of at the supermarket.
"The farmers market people are committed," he said. "They'll come out in the cold and rain, so this isn't going to keep them away. I'm actually pretty impressed so far today. We may sell out ahead of schedule."