Expanded markets are crucial for those preserving the harvest.
Once upon a time, most farmers' markets lasted until Halloween. The pumpkin push was the last hurrah.
No more. The Dane County Farmers' Market became a year-round concern in the winter of 2003-4. And now the smaller neighborhood markets are beginning to follow suit. More are moving indoors for sales in November and December.
This will be the second year the Fitchburg market has extended its season. "Last year, we decided to give it a shot," says Steven Leverentz, who helps coordinate the market. "People seemed disappointed that we were closing, and the vendors still had stuff to sell."
Leverentz adds that the indoor market includes items not featured during the outdoor markets, like olive oil.
The Hilldale market went year-round in the winter of 2010-11. This year, the Northside Market will do so at the Northside Town Center.
Polly Reott, a volunteer vendor coordinator with the Northside Winter Market and the master food preserver behind Polly Jane's Pickles & Jams, says, "Vendors like me, who have a value-added product that's not as seasonal, need a market all year."
The food entrepreneur movement is exploding, says Reott, and "with the FEED Kitchens starting up, those food businesses are going to need a place to start selling."
With the much-discussed Madison Public Market not expected to open until 2017, extending the vending periods of existing markets is a viable alternative.
"All we need is something like this," says Reott, indicating the storefront space for the Northside Winter Market -- bare-bones but warm, with wood shelves and cedar paneling left over from a previous tenant. Last Sunday, 22 vendors were there selling everything from alpaca wool to alligator meat.
"We're calling it the Northside Winter Market, not a farmers' market," says Fiona Stoner, who's on the market's board of directors. That distinction is made because of the expectation that the number of produce vendors will decrease after Jan. 1, and that other vendors -- cheese, honey, soap, yarn, crafts -- will fill in. The market will run every Sunday until Dec. 29, and every other Sunday from January until April.
"But there may continue to be produce," Stoner says, noting the increase in farms using hoop houses. "And because there are winter markets, they can sell what's grown there."
Stoner points to Equinox Community Farm, a CSA from Waunakee, as an example of a farm that's "using the preserving bill the way it was meant to be used." Wisconsin Act 101 (a.k.a. "The Pickle Bill" of 2010) makes it easier for producers to sell home-canned foods. This year, Equinox is introducing pickles, jams, relishes and chutneys that use its own produce, and selling them at the market.
Don and Dave Bruns, owners of the Northside Town Center and market board members, are donating the space this year. Meikle's Northside True Value helped volunteers spruce up the room, and improvements continue to be made. They include venting, so market regular Corona's Tacos can move indoors with its hot tacos and tamales.
The Northside Winter Market takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. from Nov. 3 to Dec. 29, and every other Sunday from Jan. 12 to April 6, next to the Brat und Brau, 2933 N. Sherman Ave., in the Northside Town Center. New vendors are welcome, as are volunteers. Contact the market at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's info on other neighborhood markets that are heading indoors:
- The Hilldale Farmers' Market will run inside the mall 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. every Saturday.
- Fitchburg's market will run indoors at the Fitchburg Senior/Community Center, 5510 Lacy Rd., 3-6 p.m. Thursdays Nov. 7-Dec. 19 (no market on Thanksgiving).
- The MadWest Winter Farmer's Market will take place 8 a.m.-noon Saturdays inside the Lussier Community Education Center, 55 S. Gammon Rd., Nov. 16-Dec. 21. A free breakfast on Nov. 16 will be made from all-local ingredients.
- The Eastside Farmers' Market will be held inside the Wil-Mar Center at 953 Jenifer St. 4-7 p.m. Tuesdays, through Dec. 17.