August 10: At the 50-Year Mark, the Dane County Farmers’ Market is Still Going Strong!

–submitted by Sharyn Alden

During the August 10 Rotary meeting, Market Manager Jamie Bugel provided an interesting history and updates about the iconic market on the Capitol Square.

When Jamie Bugel talked about the ‘Dane County Farmers’ Market, a fixture on the Capitol Square since 1972, she knew her stats.

“Fifty years ago the market started with 11 farmers, but by the next weekend 85 farmers showed up,” she said.

It didn’t take long for one of Madison’s best-kept secrets to start growing exponentially. Bugel pointed out last week there’s a major difference in how and where vendors are located on the Square compared to when the market first opened.

In its early years, vendors just showed up and took the best spots around the Square they could find. “Sometimes they would arrive at 4 in the morning and sleep on the Square to save a spot and secure the best foot traffic.”

Since 1991, though, that method of ‘finders keepers’ went away. The model since the early 90s the location is based on how many years a vendor has been part of the market.

Bugel said there are currently 230 members (farmers/vendors) of the Dane County Farmers’ Market, yet her staff is “just two and a half’ associates. On an average Saturday on the Square there are about 100 vendors offering products.”  When asked how a business can become a Farmers’ Market vendor she said, “You don’t have to milk the cows that supply milk for your cheese, but you do have to be the owner of the business you represent, and you must be active in the production of the food or goods you sell.”

As the number of vendors has grown, today’s Dane County Farmer’s Market is a unique repository of food and other products that are grown and made locally. Sometimes they are new to shoppers on the Square.

Bugel gave an example of some of the market’s unusual products. “Black currants, which are more common in Europe are now one of the products you might find when you’re at the market,” she said.

If you missed our meeting last week, you can watched it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pds1WBDnjMY&t=3s.

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