Ask Abe: Dane County Farmers’ Market

An Alum

When did the Dane County Farmers’ Market start?

Abe

Well, sleepyhead, the market started early: at 6:15 a.m. every Saturday (or 8:30 a.m. on Wednesdays). If you meant When did it first start, like, ever?then that, says current market manager Sarah Elliott MS’08, was September 30, 1972. The Dane County Farmers’ Market was the brainchild of Madison mayor Bill Dyke LLB’60, who served from 1969 to 1973. (He was unseated by a young Paul Soglin ’66, JD’72.) Inspired by traditional European market days, Dyke dreamed of having an open-air, fresh-produce market in Madison, and with the assistance of the city’s Chamber of Commerce and the county’s UW Extension office, he succeeded. The market’s first manager was Jonathan Barry ’69, who ran a beef and produce farm southwest of town. In its first year, the market ran for only four weeks, wrapping up on October 21. It then reopened on June 16, 1973, and since then, it has only become more popular. Today it claims to be the nation’s largest producers-only farmers’ market, with about 275 vendors selling everything from kohlrabi and turnips to cheese, eggs, and spicy cheese bread.