Two Thumbs Up For Local Madison Farmers’ Market


James and I have not ventured out to any business, other than the grocery stores, since mid-February. And then mostly to have pre-ordered items put in the trunk of the car. But on Tuesday we decided to give the local Farmers’ Market a try and I was very impressed.

The vendors were most responsible with masks and there was one gentleman, who following the touching of money (and the conclusion of a customer sale), did a squirt of hand-sanitizer and repeated that as I watched for three separate sales.

Most—but sadly not all—of the customers wore masks. But overall I was most pleased with the seriousness that the times call for.

I know of others who take the times we live in with the gravity required, and that is why I write this note. While I would not feel at all comfortable in any restaurant, coffee shop, or any such public place, and given where the numbers are headed locally that is even more true, the openness of the market, and the truly careful and respectful nature of those selling made a huge impression on me.

I encourage others who also follow the medical-driven data and know not to be in groups, etc., to give the local market a try. They need the shoppers, the quality is grand, and it can be done safely. Thanks to those who make this local market possible.

Stay safe and wear a mask for everyone’s health!

Remembering Andrew P. Wersal

Heading to the local neighborhood Farmers’ Market each Tuesday afternoon meant we would buy, among other things, organic eggs.  The eggs were always grand, with a dark tanned shell and the most wonderfully colored yellow yolks one could hope to find upon cracking them open.  But better than all that was the time to chat for a couple minutes with the seller.

Andrew Wersal.

We would chat about the weather and if the latest downpours had hit his farm.  As he sat in the passenger side of the truck, or on the top of a large cooler in the shade, the conversations might bounce around from his animals back home to the best ways to make an omelet.   Andy was the epitome of a grandfatherly-type farmer who seemed to relish his life.   He was a nice part to each of the markets.

We had not seen him for two weeks, thinking last week he was just not able to make it for whatever reason.  This week I asked a vendor in the area about Andy to discover this kind man, with a slow gait, had died in late July.   The cause of death was due to a pulmonary embolism.

One of the ladies at the market said his last day was much like the others, except Andy thought he was dehydrated.  When taken to the doctor the clot was located, but by that evening he had passed away.  Silently into the night.

It is amazing how people that are only in our lives at the margins, and only for brief minutes, still connect and make for genuine smiles.  Today there was a large open space on the pavement where his truck would have been parked, where on the shady passenger side  a small framed man would have sat and talked with shoppers.

That memory still made for a smile today.   Some folks are memorable that way.

Godspeed, Andy.

The Power Of A Small Child

This might be one reason James and I have no children.

We are at the Farmers’ Market at the Capitol Square and this very sweet little girl asks those passing by “Please buy some of my flowers.”

We take about four more steps away from her soft voice and I turn and walk back. “Which one do you want?” she asks.

“Any bouquet with some yellow blooms,” I say.  She picks out one and wraps the ends in a plastic bag.

Truth is had she wanted to sell me the whole lot that was left I would be out buying flower vases right now.


A Death Creates Real Loss For Dane County Farmers’ Market

There was no way not to be stunned and saddened while attending Saturday’s much loved Dane County Farmers’ Market around the Capitol.  The man whose face was just a part of the market for so long as he sold amazing jams behind the “Summer Kitchen” stand was no longer there.  He died suddenly just a few days ago.   The future of the entire operation is up in the air as was stated by the person who was sadly standing there and imparting the news and collecting condolences in a guest book.

Daniel “Danny” Ivan Aultman, age 42, died unexpectedly of natural causes on Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at his residence in rural Highland.

He moved with his family to rural Highland in July of 1977. Dan is a graduate of Iowa-Grant High School. He worked at the Summer Kitchen with James Schroeder as a youth, teenager, and young man. After James’ death, Dan was the owner of Summer Kitchen known for the popular jams and jellies, which he sold at the Dane County Farmers Market in Madison, to grocery stores and other businesses. Many customers came to his farm to buy the well-known product and if Dan was not home they used the honor system to go to his back kitchen to pick out their own item and leave money in a cash box. Dan never was worried someone would not honor this system. He also loved going to the Cranberry Fest at Warren in Sept. to sell product. He was also known for his beautiful flowers around his property. 

Almost from the first time I ever attended the market decades ago I bought jams and jellies from this stand and always took jars throughout the year back home to my parents when I visited them on Sunday afternoons.  There was never a better looking array of some of the most tasty preserves at the market than what was found at “Summer Kitchen”.  As I noted in the condolence book on Saturday Dan’s face will long be recalled with smiles by those who love the market.


Lexus Livens Up First Dane County Farmers’ Market For 2015


There was no way not to smile or clap when 17-year-old Lexus played her blue violin at the opening weekend of the Dane County Farmers’ Market.  Her mother, standing off to the side, was smiling and for good reason.  There was a sure-footed confidence behind the grin that Lexus gave to the folks who passed along the sidewalk and stopped to listen to her play.  For seven years she has practiced and worked at her music.  Under warm sunshine and gentle breezes she let the bow do the talking.  Hopefully she will be at future markets this year entertaining on the Capitol Square.


There were plenty of products to browse and colorful flowers to take home for the planters that are crying out for life after a long winter.



Every year one thing remains the same.  A perfect tree for climbing on the lawn of the statehouse has children desiring to get up into the branches.


Finally there is no shortage of great things to eat at the market including donuts, cheese curds, and cookies.  There is also nothing better to see than a kid who knows how to enjoy life!



Saturday Farmers’ Market: Smiles And Broken Glass

The wind was whipping about on the isthmus this morning as vendors gathered on the Capitol Square.  There were plenty of people milling about, and a wider variety of produce as the planting season gains steam in Dane County.  A wider array of plants could be found, and the greenhouse tomatoes were much in evidence.   I am one of those old-fashioned types, however, and prefer the ones grown with sunshine that allows for the ripening process to make for perfect flavor and texture.  Still, it was nice to see a bustling market.

One of the first things I saw today that made me smile, and snap some photos, was only a block from the market.   Eye-popping yellow on a musical touring bus from Knoxville, Tennessee was making a turn so to park for a performance in the city tonight.  The group, 1975, is performing on State Street.


With sunshine and a sugar-high from donuts at the market these girls were making the most of the green grass as the statehouse.


Just off the square and heading down State Street artists sell their work.  Last year we bought one from this vendor.


Flowers were everywhere, and made for colors.


The sound one never wants to hear at the market is the popping sound of a jar and the shattering of glass.  One has no other way to feel than sorry when the head turns and this is the sight to see.


Lets leave this post on a high note.   Wearing a red hat in this photo is Wisconsin’s longest-serving legislator, State Senator Fred Risser.   In black coat is our friend, Rolf.  (Now I will see if he reads this blog….)



Dane County Farmers’ Market Opens With Sunshine And Huge Crowd

I am not sure how the moment could have been any better aligned between the need of Madisonians to greet spring after a harsh winter, and farmers and vendors wishing to sell their products.   Sunshine and warm temperatures brought out not only many people to the Capitol Square, but people with broad smiles and from what I witnessed also a desire to get fresh spinach, cheese curds, and even some early plants.  There were all sorts of sights to be had, and donuts to be tasted.  If you have not ever spent a Saturday morning at the market make sure you do so sometime this year.  It is a Madison tradition.

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Squash Day At Dane County Farmers’ Market

This is not the last Dane County Farmers’ Market of the year, as we have two more to attend before the season comes to a close for the outdoor event this year.  But this was the week that we did our annual squash buy–over 130 pounds of squash into two gunny sacks–enough for a winter’s worth of great eating.  I must say it was feeling more winter-like today as the temperature was only 39 degrees when we walked around the Capitol Square.  But there were lots of folks sipping hot coffee, getting cheese and donuts, and talking about everything from politics to traveling to Europe for Easter.  It might have been cold, but it was lively.

I commented to the same lady we purchase our gunny bags of squash from each year that there is just a real pleasure from a stuffed squash in the oven on a cold winter day that is hard to explain. Given that our Victorian home was built in 1892, and therefore is insulated with ‘dead space’–a very common way of construction at the time–the heat from the kitchen makes for a really cozy feel.   Add the aroma of James’s cooking a squash stuffed with meatloaf and there is nothing better to be found!

So it was that we stuffed two gunny sacks–$20..00 each–and then found a way to get them into our VW Beetle.

One of our finds this morning was from a separate farmer who had heirloom Italian butternuts for sale.  I had never seen of these, and instantly we bought one of them.  The farmer had only brought eight of them to the market, and had already sold seven of them.

When home I placed it on the table and snapped a picture of it–the butternut measuring 18 inches–alongside one of those amazing Blue Hubbards that needs to be cracked with a hatchet.  The blue Hubbard weighed 15 pounds, and was also purchased from a separate seller who had a nice selection of these meaty squashes.

The lady selling the Hubbard told us she cuts a ‘cap’ into the squash and stuffs it with boneless chicken, rice, and spices, and then places the ‘cap’ back on and bakes the entire squash.  When done she slices it like bread and places large slabs of the wonderful cross-section of wonder on large plates for dinner.

I think some salad for color and different textures, and then add a glass of wine and one has a perfect meal.