Greens-to-go: it's the season for Walworth County farmers markets
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Area farmers markets offer a wide range of products, from fruit and vegetables to eggs, plants, honey, and even fresh herbs, as this vendor at a past market in East Troy does. The East Troy Market Place will be open 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursdays from June 14 to Sept 27, on the square in East Troy. File photo.
LAKE GENEVA--Renea Collins, of Lake Geneva and Chicago, looks forward to spring every year and only considers it truly here when the farmers markets open.
“I think I’ve been to all of them between Chicago and Madison,” Collins said. “I love the ones midweek; I can hit two or three of them that way.”
Because she’s most often on the east side of Walworth County, Collins most often shops at the Lake Geneva or Burlington market, but she likes Whitewater’s market a lot, too.
“That’s my place for bedding plants and eggs. I get my honey at Lake Geneva and my chicken in Burlington.”
While Collins might be an extreme connoisseur of farmers markets, there are plenty of customers that flock to the outdoor venues in search of fresh and local foods.
Whitewater’s market is the first to open each year -- it’s on the west end of town, right off of Main Street (U.S. Highway 12) -- so the vendors there see a good amount of drive-by traffic, but most market vendors will tell you that there is a growing list of regular customers.
“People really do their research,” said George Murphy, of Jefferson, who often helps his nephew sell produce at the Madison market. “They seem to know what they want, and they ask for specific varieties.”
The number of markets has grown, but so too has the quality. That’s something Carol Reed, the director of the Burlington Farmers Market, is concerned with.
“Our vendors all have to carry liability insurance, and if a license is required to sell their product, we make sure they have that too. Anyone that is serving food needs to be licensed through the state. And, anyone selling preserves has to follow the pickle law.”
The pickle law refers to permit requirements for people selling preserves. They must clearly mark their product so it can be identified; they have a dollar limit as to how much they can sell before they need a more extensive license; and they must take a safe canning and foods preservation class, offered through the University of Wisconsin-Extension office.
Reed, who works for the extension system, said the Burlington market was established after the extension did a survey on 30 different markets. The market, held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Wehmhoff Square on Thursdays, opens this week (May 3).
There are 22 vendors signed up already, with more that have expressed an interest.
“It changes throughout the season,” said Reed. “We’ve had as many as 35.”
“Eat local” is the latest buzz phrase for foodies, and there is no better way to do that than to shop at a farmers market. Early spring produce includes asparagus, radishes and rhubarb. You’ll also find bedding plants, flowers and fresh meats, locally grown, including beef, pork, chicken and lamb.
Collins likes to get to the Whitewater market early for fresh eggs.
“I just hate it when I miss the egg lady,” she said.
“We typically have bakery, cheese, goat milk soap, herbal soaps, honey, maple syrup and prepared foods,” said Reed.
Some markets allow crafts and other goods to be sold. In Lake Geneva, you might find jewelry, bird houses and other crafts.
Buying locally produced goods and foods is not the only attraction however.
“It’s a great place to learn more about your food source,” said Murphy, who likes to joke that his nephew only has him around to talk to the customers.
“I am good at it,” he said. “People want to make a connection to what they’re buying. They want to know how it’s grown, if it’s organic, that type of thing.”
To that end, there are two publications that consumers will find useful. Both are free, and both are available online.
The publication, A Consumer’s Guide to Organic Foods, answers questions about organic foods and labeling. Go to the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection website at datcp.wi.gov to print a copy.
The Farm Fresh Atlas of Southeastern Wisconsin is available at area grocery stores, food markets and businesses. It lists local growers and includes a list of farmers markets. It’s available online as well. Go to www.farmfreshatlas.org/southeast.
If you go:
Burlington Farmers Market, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays May through October, Wehmhoff Square, corner of Pine and Washington streets, Burlington. Contact Carol Reed, (262) 210-6360 www.burlingtonwifarmersmarket.com
Delavan’s Fresh Market, 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., every Thursday May 31 through Oct. 18. Fresh fruit, vegetable, honey and more at Tower Park.
East Troy Market Place, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., Thursdays, June 14 through Sept. 27, on the square, County Highway ES and Wisconsin Highway 120, East Troy. (262) 642-3770, www.easttroywi.org.
Harvard Farmers Market, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Saturday, May through October, 19, N. Ayer St., corner of Ayer and Front streets, downtown Harvard. (815) 770-0400, www.harvardfarmersmarket.net
Lake Geneva Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., every Thursday May 10 through Oct. 11. Horticultural Hall, 330 Broad St., Lake Geneva. (262) 248-4382, www.lakegenevawi.com.
Mukwonago Farmers Market, noon to 6 p.m., every Wednesday, June 13 through Oct.10, in the parking lot at Tractor Supply, Highway 83 and Bay View Road, Mukwonago. 262) 363-7758, mukwonagochamber.org.
Northwind Perennial Farm Market, 9 a.m. to noon, Fridays June 1 through Aug. 31, weather permitting, 7047 Hospital Road, Burlington. (262) 248-8229.
Country Market, third Sunday of each month, May through October, downtown Sharon. (262) 736-4888, www.villageofsharon.com
Walworth County Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to noon, Saturdays, June 2 through Oct. 20, on the Elkhorn town square, Wisconsin highways 67 and 11, downtown Elkhorn. Contact Peg Reedy, (262) 741-4961.
Whitewater Farmers Market, 8 a.m. to noon, every Saturday, May through November, Winchester True Value Hardware, 1415 W. Main St., Whitewater. Contact Allan Marshall, (262) 473-3221.