Five (+) Reasons to Support Farmers Markets

Dane County Farmers Market overlooking Lake Mendota, Madison, WI

Last week, Aug. 7-13, communities across the country celebrated National Farmers Market Week. I joined in by heading to my favorite Dane County Farmers Market. As the largest producer-only market in the country, it surrounds Madison’s Capitol Square with a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, cheese, baked goods, flowers and more. It’s a beloved Saturday tradition and a definite must-do destination.

What’s the big deal about farmers markets and why is it so important to support them?

The most obvious reasons are the opportunity to taste food at its best and to meet the farmers who produce it. But here are five equally important reasons.

1. Seasonal Flavor

Long before the days of picking produce in an unripened state, stockpiling it in warehouses and then trucking it cross-country, people ate differently. They ate seasonally. That is to say they harvested food grown in their own good earth at the time it was peak in ripeness, and they then either ate it or home-preserved it while it was still fresh. If they were Midwesterners, they ate asparagus in spring, tomatoes in summer, and apples in autumn. Because withstanding the rigors of transportation was not an issue, these now-heritage varietals were grown with an emphasis on flavor. They were nutritious and, oh, so full of natural tastiness.

Farmers markets allow us to go back to those times. They enable us to celebrate the God-given rhythm of growing seasons and purchase foods at their highest quality. On top of that, farmers markets offer a wonderful diversity, with many varietals we’ll never find in commercial groceries.

A great book on the benefits of eating seasonally is Animal, Vegetable, Miracleby Barbara Kingsolver.

2. Environmentally Friendly

Scientific American coined the term “5,000-mile salad” in reference to the global distance an increasing number of our store-bought fruits and vegetables travel. Conversely, many farmers markets require vendors to sell food produced within a specified distance, some as low as 50–100 miles. Buying from the farmers market means you’re spending your dollars on food, not fossil fuels.

Americans have developed an insatiable appetite for healthy food and farmers markets are rising to meet the demand. Saturday, as I moved in a shoulder-to-shoulder flow of people, I noticed a majority of venders advertising themselves as using organic and GMO-free practices.

Market vendors love to discuss farming with their customers. They share a contagious energy for growing good food and protecting the soil in which its grown.

fresh produce from Wisconsin farmers markets

3. Affordability

I went to Saturday’s market to supplement my own garden with poblano peppers for Marisa McClellan’s corn salsa recipe. I happily came away with a few extra items, all for less than $20.

  • 2 bags squeaky fresh cheese curds: $5 each
  • 1 lb. crowns-only broccoli: $1
  • 2 lb. carrots: $2
  • 4 poblano and red peppers: $2.75

Shopping seasonally and locally enables us to buy better quality for less money. Take this $1 broccoli, for example. Apparently my area is having a bountiful year for cruciferous vegetables and they’re priced exceptionally low. Next week, after I’ve finished canning corn, I’ll be back for more broccoli to put up for winter. Fresh, local, inexpensive—how can I go wrong?

Healthy, organic food has a reputation of being too costly but farmers markets debunk such nonsense. Farmers markets offer us a way to eat  healthy and economically all year long.

4. Social

The farmers market is just plain fun. It’s a bringing together of humanity to celebrate one of our most basic joys and needs—food. Good food! At the Dane County Farmers Market, families gather for picnics on the Capitol lawn. Street musicians bring festivity to the air. Dancers entertain us. At my small, hometown Tuesday market, friends and neighbors greet one another by name. The honey vendor offers me, a newbie beekeeper, helpful advice and happily takes my empty jars for recycling.

5. Support for the Local, Sustainable Farmer

I have a soft spot for the self-employed. I revere those with the moxie to separate themselves from corporate America, those with a drive for something more than money—in this case, food that won’t poison us or the earth. For these entrepreneuring hearts, a farmers market is the land of opportunity.

A farmers market is where the handcrafted soapmaker supplements the family’s income so he or she can stay home with the kids. Where immigrants can make a living and connect with the community. Where whole families can work together and kids gain the confidence that comes with business and social skills. Where the high school musician can earn money for college. Where farmers can continue in small, organic practices because there are customers who share their passion for quality food.

Supporting your local farmers market affords these opportunities to continue. If local farmers succeed, they will continue providing us with quality food and they will invest their earnings back into our community. Their success is our success.

Another great book is Gaining Groundby Forrest Pritchard. It’s the hard-work-and-economics story of establishing his grass-finished beef in the Washington D.C. farmers markets.

A Farmers Market Near You

Looking for market locations and schedules? Here is a national directory. Also, here is a south-central Wisconsin directory (it’s a social media post I did for Forward Mutual—I can write for your organization too, by the way:-).

Wednesday Webs: Things Keeping My Interest This Summer

Bees on their brood frame in Wisconsin

So this has been my summer of beekeeping. Since I know absolutely nada of these honeys, I’m learning things as I go. For example, I now know the cone shape in the center above is a queen cell and since I already have one queen, another could be problematic. I should get rid of this cell. Or not. The challenging aspect of Beekeeping 101 is that the old salts are notorious for their variety of preferential practices (kind of like our world of marketing, yes?). In any event, so far I’ve managed to not kill my bees, nor have they left me for a better keeper.

Besides beekeeping (and my usual gardening and raising baby chicks), here are other agricultural interests that have me humming this summer:

  • Speaking of bees, here’s an interview on what we can do to improve their future, by an unconventional Madison entrepreneur
  • Similarly, the Chicago Honey Co-op works to produce honey and promote the good work of bees
  • You’ve heard of CSAs. How about CSFs, (as in Alaskan fish)? Grassroots, out-of-the-box entrepreneurism at its best!
  • We Live On the Internet. We Die Alone. Are we living our lives online instead of living it for real? This isn’t a farming story, but its poignant intensity shows a season of life that applies to us all. This summer spend time digging in the dirt. Grow food and share it with people. Spend real time with real people!

Soil Sisters ad by Adunate Word & Design

  • I’m once again proud to be working with Soil Sisters, a fun-filled, culinary and ag event. Here’s the ad Adunate did for them, which appeared in the summer issue of Edible Madison magazine. Going to be in Wisconsin this summer? Come to Soil Sisters, Aug. 5-7.

Sponsor Sampler, by Adunate Word & Design

  • Later, in fall, Fermentation Fest will once again host its convergence of food, agriculture and art. Here’s a piece Adunate did as a sponsor sampler. Interested in sponsoring Fermentation Fest? Contact the Fermentation Fest team right away because they’re putting things together as we speak!

That’s all for now, folks. Hope you’re having a blessed summer!


Magnificent Trees for Earth Day 2016

Old growth forest in Hartwick Pines, Grayling, MI

Last week while traveling in Michigan we spent an afternoon in Hartwick Pines State Park. When I was a kid my family spent a lot of time vacationing in nearby Grayling so this whole Au Sable River region holds special memories. It was great to be back (snow and all, ha!).

Chapel in the Pines, Hartwick Pines State Park, Grayling, MI

It’s also fitting because today is Earth Day and this year’s emphasis is Trees for the Earth. If you want to celebrate trees, Hartwick Pines is the place to go. It’s a 9,672-acre park that during the late 1800s was owned and logged by the Salling-Hanson Lumber Company. Thankfully in 1927, Karen Michelson Hartwick, a company heir, donated the land to the State of Michigan as a memorial to the logging industry. With that came 85 acres (now 49) of old growth, 350+ year old, red and white pines. Talk about glorious trees! There’s also a second growth forest that was planted in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

How blessed we are that people in the past cared enough to preserve trees for us today. Now we have an opportunity to pay it forward. In recognition of its upcoming 50th anniversary, the Earth Day Network has set a goal of planting 7.8 billion trees by 2020 and they’re looking for us to help.

Reliance Peach bareroot trees

Here’s our contribution: Peach trees. They’re replacement for those we lost a few years ago to Wisconsin winters. Since peaches aren’t native to this area, their lifespan isn’t as long as it might be in a more southernly climate (oops, we’re not exactly following the article I wrote for Forward Mutual’s weekly news:-). Nonetheless, I’ve been missing the home-canned goodness they offer, so we’re happy to replace them as needed. Grow fast trees, grow fast!

Happy Earth Day everyone! Plant a tree and celebrate the good earth God has given us!

Nature, agriculture, food and history are some of my favorite topics. If you need copywriting for your organization, drop me a line!

Celebrating With Eco-Friendly Totes

Adunate's cotton tote

My tote bags are in!

Since it’s Adunate’s anniversary year, I wanted to do something special for the wonderful people with whom I’ve had the honor to work. Many of them are sustainably-minded, be it with the food they produce or the products they manufacture. I felt it important to give them something that fits well with their business mission and way of life.

Adunate's cotton tote

I’m excited by the quality of the bag. I wanted a heavy duty cotton and found just what I was looking for at Bagmasters (ask for Amber, she was super helpful).

Adunate's cotton tote

The bags are 14″ x 10.5″ and have a 5″ gusset for lots of spacious stuffing.

Adunate's cotton tote

The shoulder straps are sturdily sewn into an inside binding and just the right length for comfortable carrying…

Adunate's cotton tote…or hanging a display of Christmas greenery…

Adunate's cotton tote

…on a lovely old door.

Have a totin’ good Christmas everyone! It’s a glorious time of year!



November Means Working Together (Pro-Bono)

sandhill cranes in the distance

Here it is November and we still have sandhill cranes. If you look closely in this zoomed-to-the-max iPhone shot, you see two of them enhancing the otherwise desolate cornfield. They caught my attention a few mornings ago as they gaggled away in response to another pair far in the distance. This weekend we’re supposed to get several inches of snow so these snowbirds will likely say to heck with this and take off for warmer temps.

Aren’t the migratory habits of birds amazing?

For example, for several months in autumn the sandhills gather in wetlands before heading south. These are called staging areas and here in Wisconsin there are several where thousands of cranes assemble at a time. I like to imagine this is a time of preparation and joining together of forces for the arduous journey ahead.

You probably knew migrating birds fly in the V-Formation, officially known as the echelon formation. They do this for its aerodynamic advantage, obviously. But did you know birds take turns flying the front helm of this V, a very strenuous task? And did you know the mortality rate for birds is six times higher during the migration season? Given this, isn’t it interesting that even though survival favors the selfish—those that promote their own well-being before that of others—the God-given nature of birds is to selflessly share the responsibility?

This author makes a good point when he says, “If migrating birds work together, the flock has a greater chance of having all of its feathered brethren make the long trip to their destination.”

Working together. For the good of all.

With this caring concept in mind and because November is the month of giving, let me announce it’s my season for pro-bono applications. Each year Adunate accepts two pro-bono projects for greatly reduced or no cost. These are projects I strongly support and believe will positively impact God’s creation, his people, or his ministry.

My interests include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Architecture
  • Arts
  • Children
  • Faith
  • History
  • Humanity
  • Natural Food & Living
  • Nature & Animals
  • Preservation & Sustainability

If your organization needs creative assistance in the upcoming year, click here for an application. Then, to guarantee your project’s success, be sure to click here!

Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2015. I will let applicants know of my decision in January.