Farmers Markets in Full Swing Despite Cool, Damp Weather

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By: 
Katherine Perreth
Check out the tasty treats at the Middleton and Cross Plains farmers markets this summer.

Farmers Markets in Full Swing Despite Cool, Damp Weather

CROSS PLAINS/MIDDLETON–Although off to a slow start, Mother Nature will not be denied her growing season. And, thankfully, the public will not be denied their farmers’ markets, despite weather-related cancellations, wind, rain and chilly temperatures. Both Cross Plains and Middleton Farmers’ Markets, held respectively on Wednesdays 3:30-6 p.m., at the corner of Hwy. P and Main St., and Thursdays 8 a.m.-1 p.m., in Greenway Station, are proof. 

Vendors, coming from localities such as Arena, Blue Mounds, Cross Plains, Gays Mills, Highland, Oregon and Madison, expect that in July seasonal fruit and vegetables will be in abundance.

“It’s coming around,” said Natalie Ortega of Natalie’s Garden and Greenhouse, “We’re optimistic and we have our expected produce, now.” Her stall in Middleton is one of several selling herbs and flowering plants.

The bounty is just in the nick of time for those who love fresh fruit and veggies: mounds of radishes, greens of all kinds, kohlrabi, “baby taters,” onions and zucchini will soon be accompanied by broccoli, cucumbers, eggplant and those ruby-red, nothing-says-summer-like tomatoes. But in June, another red favorite summertime fruit reigns.

“There’s nothing like a fresh-picked strawberry,” one shopper sighed as she nibbled. 

Even though a large variety of produce was hard to find until late-June, plenty of other edibles have been on offer: eggs from free-range chickens, cheese curds and beef of all cuts, small batch honey, maple syrup, pickled veggies, jams and jellies, BBQ sauce, soups, salsa and treats, treats, treats. 

While many vendors have years, or even decades, of experience, two young women launched businesses this season. Blue House Cakery sells cupcakes, and possibly in July, small cakes. Lily’s Magical Treats is a purveyor of “gourmet natural cotton candy.”

In Cross Plains, Blue House Cakery-owner Kelly Lawler also takes orders for custom-made cakes and said unicorn cakes have been a hot item. She’s made eight in a matter of months. Rounds, sheets, cupcakes, she offers all, as well as traditional to creative flavorings, such as lemon or strawberry cake, meringue buttercream or ganache icing in salted caramel or espresso.

In Middleton, cotton-candy maker Tiffany Messenger said, “It’s been a good day for selling cotton candy.”

Possibly an understatement, as 350 children and adults participating in the Middleton Library-sponsored Greenway Station Playdate, just behind the market, made crafts, listened to a story, checked out books, then swarmed the colorful market. 

“The hottest sellers were bubblegum and lavender,” Messenger said. She sold out of both.

Messenger uses food-grade essential oils, organic sugar and natural colors to create such delights as creamsicle, key lime and pineapple, she said. Or for the more adventurous, chipotle-pepper, maple bacon or Irish cream. 

The Cross Plains Farmers’ Market, sponsored by the LIFE Foundation and the Village of Cross Plains Parks and Recreation Department, also holds special events, near the food truck. On a weekly basis, there is a Kids Activity Center, and the third Wednesday of each month features a Craft Market.

Meryl Mixtacki sells original-photograph cards, pictures and textiles, for example Pope Farm sunflower canvas bags; Dain Ziegler sells burlwood bowls, spoon-rests and coasters; and The Denim Dog Den (which includes cats in that category, despite what they might think), sells “Stink-Less” shampoo, flea and tick repellent, made of essential oils and natural products, in addition to recycled-denim washable and durable toys, accessories and treats for pets. Catnip and Tuna/Salmon for cats, Chicken and Bacon for dogs. 

If your dog wants a good gnaw, bones can be found at both markets. In Middleton, at Murphy Farms, which also offers beef, cheese curds and maple syrup, while in Cross Plains, at Dreamy 280 Farm Fresh Meats, also selling beef, jerky/sticks, bologna and soup bones.

Lisa Schlimgen, of Dreamy 280 Farm, has a hard time keeping up with the demand for hanging tender and flank steaks, she said: “They fly out of here.” Her family has been raising grass-and-grain-fed beef cattle for 30 years, she said.

For most vendors, it’s a family thing: harvesting, making, packaging, and even naming the business and occasionally offering opinions. Hunter, 10, of Cross Plains market’s Happy Hunter Farms, highly recommends the strawberry-kiwi jam. 

His mother, Melissa Smith, also now offers pasta sauce, “It’s going like crazy,” she said. Although not certified organic (most vendors are not) her farm grows everything using organic practices, she said. Smith grows everything in her gluten-free, no-corn-syrup products, she said, with the exception of the kiwi and oranges for orange-rhubarb jam. Then she added, “And the red wine for Sangria jam. But if I could grow that, I would!”

Near her stall, the 300 Red Star free-range chickens at Enchanted Valley Eggs provide, well, eggs. New this season, said owner Ken Butler, hardboiled eggs for those on the go, suggested by a customer. 

Dan Laufenberg sells his free-range eggs in Middleton, allowing his hens to “scratch for insects” and other edibles in a large pasture, he said.

Cheryl Heck, with Heck’s Market, and manager of the Middleton Farmers’ Market, routinely, and quickly, sells out of sweet products, notably, her apple cider donuts, sugar snap peas and strawberries. 

At the other end of the market, Vang’s offers fresh flowers and “no chemicals, no spray,” produce, said Yee Leng Vang, 21.

At Middleton’s multi-generational shared stall, Yangs (produce) and Yummee (bakery), bundled stalks of asparagus sat side-by-side with 6-ounce Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookies.  

Nearby, Jesse Peterson of J’s Black Walnuts sells bags of shelled nuts and walnut cookies, harvested from the yards of Middleton residents, he said. “People are more than happy to have me come and get’em off their yards.” 

As with many booths, Peterson offers samples. Initially passing by, Judy Eveland decided to do a U-turn and munch a cookie. “Mmmm, these are very good. Guess I shouldn’t have tried one,” she joked as she bought a bag.

Heck, said she’s been getting a lot of good feedback on the Middleton market, the foot traffic has increased since last year, and people “always say they’re so glad the market’s back.”

Cross Plains market organizer, Jane Busch, said the customers are pleased and so are the vendors.

“It’s a great group of vendors who say it’s a fun market to be at because people are so nice,” she said. Busch is happy with the progress the market has made over the past four years, and said she expects to add more vendors, “as they hear about our great location.”

These sentiments bode well for the futures of both the Cross Plains and Middleton Farmers’ Markets.

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