The traditional Saturday farmers’ market’s dominant position may be contested by a new Sunday market, but not all are convinced of its possible threat.
Located on Capitol Square, the Sunday market offers a second source of fresh, local food from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors from Saturday’s Dane County Farmers’ Market are featured, as well as those unable to participate Saturday due to limited space.
The market, which is heading into its third weekend of operation this Sunday, has no affiliation with the Dane County Farmers’ Market. According to Bill Lubing, DCFM manager, the Saturday market has operated for more than 40 years and is the largest producer-only market in the country.
“We don’t look at other farmers’ markets as competition,” said Lubing. “Our goal is to promote and offer a venue for people to sell local foods. We encourage well-run markets.”
Although DCFM is open on a separate day, some vendors are skeptical of new competition and their ability to succeed.
Tom Murphy of Murphy Farms has been selling at the Saturday market for more than 23 years, and explained this market addition is great for the consumer, but potentially burdensome to fellow producers.
Murphy remains loyal to DCFM, and acknowledged it is the reason for his farm’s success. While wishing good luck to the new market, Murphy said he believes all markets are competition, and argued the Saturday market will remain dominant in the area.
“The [Dane County] market is so well known and it’s got a distinguished marker on it that it’s the best in the country,” Murphy said. “Other markets struggle to get vendors and customers, whereas the Dane County Farmers’ Market is so well-run and well known that it’ll be substantial for a long time, for a lot of vendors and people.”
Lubing said he understands the level of competition at the Saturday market and noted the market functions with a set cap of 288 members, and keeps a waiting list.
This waiting list system has the benefit of allowing vendors to decide which fresh products they want to sell on a weekly basis, while also increasing the quality of the product. The competition between the members also compels vendors to produce the very best, which Lubing claimed is only possible with a market as large as Dane County’s.
To compete, the Sunday market must develop a reputation on par with Saturday’s, Lubing said. This reputation is recognized, he said, for maintaining a vigorous inspection protocol that ensures high quality commodities. He said he believes consumers like to support local, well-run markets and fresh food.
The 2015 fall season has been one of the most profitable Lubing has seen. As for the success of the Sunday market, only time will tell.