Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Students, vendors enjoy return of Dane County Farmer’s market

DCFM plays important role in Madison, Dane County community, students say
Allie Serterides
Dane County Farmers’ Market, 2023.

The Dane County Farmer’s Market made its big return outside the Wisconsin Capitol Building April 15 and is set to last through Nov. 11, according to the Dane County Farmer’s Market.

The DCFM is Madison’s biggest farmer’s market and one of the largest producer-only markets in the country. It contributes to the importance of the market for the community, as the farmers who actually grow the produce attend the DCFM to sell and connect with their buyers, DCFM Market Manager Jamie Bugel said.

There are a variety of products that buyers can purchase from vendors, as the only rule of the market is that everything must be Wisconsin-grown, according to DCFM website.


Seasonality plays a large role in what attendees might see each Saturday. For this month, most of the available produce was grown last year and is considered a “storage vegetable,” like sweet potatoes, according to Bugel.

There will also be produce that was grown in greenhouses and hoop houses. Greenhouses usually grow some of the more popular produce like tomatoes and cucumbers. Hoop houses are greenhouses without heating — they are only covered by a plastic roof to protect the vegetation from the weather. These houses grow spinach, herbs and other spring greens, Bugel said.

Other items that are less weather-dependent sold at the DCFM include maple syrup and a large variety of cheeses and meats, according to Bugel.

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“Specifically, I like to mention eggs because there was a whole swing with egg prices throughout the last couple of months and the egg prices at the market stayed the same the whole time,” Bugel said. “That really shows the importance of having a local producer who is really charging you just for the inputs that go into their eggs. They’re really not making a huge profit.”

Students across the University of Wisconsin’s campus, including Christiana Anglin and Lauren Haldane, enjoy going to the farmer’s market on Saturdays to buy food, sit on the lawn or grab some fresh produce to cook in their apartment.

The market is a place that ties the whole city together, along with the UW campus. It makes students feel like they have a strong and happy community that gives them the opportunity to come together, Haldane said.

“I think I’m really excited for it because it’s so nice out and it just feels like spring and makes the campus happy,” Anglin said. “It’s just a really cool tradition that brings people together from around Madison and it’s just fun to come to the Capitol.”

The DCFM dates back to 1972 when then-Mayor Bill Dyke felt that combining both the rural and urban parts of Dane County would help bring the community together. Prior to this, Dane County farmers would gather in mall parking lots, gas stations and grocery stores to try and sell their produce to locals. Now, they have a designated place by the Capitol where they are able to sell to loyal customers for only a small fee, according to the market’s website.

With help from government agencies, the market began to grow in 1973, forcing farmers to stake out overnight to reserve prime spots around the Capitol Square. But because of the high popularity of the event, vendors began buying memberships to sell their products. Though it still works in the same manner for vendors today, the market is now a fully private organization, according to the market’s website.

Today, the market occurs at various locations throughout the year. During the spring, summer and fall, vendors can sell their products at two outdoor markets. During the holiday season, vendors can sell their products at a holiday market. And in late winter, an additional indoor market is open for vendors to sell their products, according to the DCFM website.

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Some of the vendors, including Jennifer Patrello from Stella’s Bakery and Ted Ballweg from Savory Accents, enjoy returning to the market each Saturday. For them, it’s not only a tradition but a way to bring people together.

“There’s a vibe here,” Ballweg said. “The Dane County Farmer’s Market is like the best producer-only market in the United States. And when people talk about a third place, this is it. This is where you go where you see people that you haven’t seen for a long time, or you see people that you see every week, but it’s just a great vibe to hang out here at downtown Madison. Whether the weather’s nice like it is today or not so nice, it’s still a great place to be.” 

In addition to the farmer’s market being a great way for students and vendors to involve themselves in the community, there are also volunteer opportunities that students can participate in, Bugel said.

One of the main ways students can get involved is by distributing food stamps. 

“We have a machine that allows customers to use their food stamps benefits to buy local produce, which is amazing. Instead of that money going out of the community, it stays locally,” Bugel said. “We also have a benefits program which doubles those SNAP benefits during the growing season part of the year, roughly June to October. So that is a really great way to volunteer and really get to know the products and how people shop at the market.” 

Saturday on the Capitol Square starts bright and early at 6:15 a.m., and vendors stay until 1:45 p.m. for people to stop by. In addition to this market on the square, there is a smaller Wednesday market that began April 19 and will continue until Nov. 1.

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