A block of East Fulton Street in Waupaca’s downtown is now an expanded farm market on Saturdays.
The Waupaca Farm Market opened for the season Saturday, June 26. Organized by Farmshed of Waupaca, the market seeks to support local, sustainable food systems.
Bonni Miller, who owns Chez Marche Cafe across the street from the farm market, is among those involved.
She said the main local Farmshed is in Stevens Point. “We formed the Waupaca offshoot with their blessing,” Miller said. “The goal is have a group in every community.”
Through October, the Waupaca Farm Market will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Each Saturday, a volunteer will serve as the host – collecting the $5 fee from vendors, which will be given to the Waupaca Community Garden to help with its efforts, and answering questions from those who visit.
Miller said that while the section of East Fulton Street from Main to Jefferson streets will open back up at 2 p.m., farmers set up in the space that the city dedicates to farmers every day will be able to stay and sell their food items past 2 p.m.
There are several reasons why a local group decided to organize such a market.
“When Roger Green died, there was a vacuum there,” Miller said.
Green’s Produce was on the corner daily – beginning in the spring and often up until November.
“We’re hoping we can get back to that,” she said. “I love having somebody right downtown, especially with people wanting to drive less.”
And, Miller says there is nothing better than food that is grown right here at home.
“It’s better tasting. It’s good for the community, good for the economy. All that money stays at home, and I think people totally get it,” she said.
For weeks, people were asking Miller when the market was starting.
“We’re starting with a small group,” she said, noting that the market is expected to become more full as the season progresses.
Saturday’s market featured such items as peas, herbs, maple syrup, locally grown beef and chicken and Georgia peaches. Smoothies were made at the market from a solar-powered blender.
Miller said their focus is to have local food at the market and to, as much as possible, hold it to food that was raised in Waupaca County. The exceptions will be Georgia peaches and Michigan blueberries.
“We just ask that people label where it comes from (in such instances). People like to know where the food comes from,” she said.
Other plans for the farm market include music and later this summer, Stump the Cook, in which people will be able to show Miller the items they purchased, and she will tell them what they can make with it.
“I think it’ll be fun,” she said. “I get that all the time, ‘What can I make with this?'”
Miller says the city and Waupaca Chamber of Commerce have been helpful and supportive, and that Farmshed of Waupaca will continue to work with them to make the farm market a success.
Businesses on East Fulton Street will be able to take advantage of the foot traffic. “People will be walking by, not whizzing by,” Miller said, making many more apt to visit the businesses as well.
For those who have an abundance of such things as berries or cucumbers, the market will be a place where anyone can set up and sell for a day.
“The state signed the Pickle Law,” she explained. “You can sell up to $6,000 of any acidic canned food, such as tomatoes, pickles, jam without having to have a commercial kitchen. It’s a nice way for people to pick up a little extra money in the summer.”
In the future, the group hopes to start the weekly market earlier in the season, but that will require more volunteers to serve as hosts at the farm market.
For information about the market, visit www.waupacafarmmarket.org.
Miller said they kept hearing that people were worried there would no longer be a farm market downtown.
“We thought it would be a shame if it faded away or if it was moved from downtown,” she said. “We have a great downtown. The square is the center of civic involvement. That is where (historically) things always happened.”
Miller believes the square is an important part of the community and that those who visit the farm market will find themselves talking to farmers and neighbors.
“The farmers market can be a catalyst to growing the community,” she said. “It’s nice to just be outside and get really fresh food.”