Janesville Farmers Market opens this weekend

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Monday, April 28, 2014

The Janesville Farmers Market will return to North Main Street this Saturday.

The market, which is open from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., runs every Saturday through Oct. 26. We asked farmers market manager Stephanie Aegerter what this year would bring.

Q: What will be available this Saturday?

A: This year's cold spring means the growing season got a late start.

This weekend's farmers market will include honey, maple syrup, cheese, meat, eggs, flowers, bedding plants, bakery items and flavored olive oils from a new vendor.

It's possible that farmers with hoop houses might bring lettuce. However, it might be too early for asparagus.

 “The year before last we had a really warm spring, and we were almost done with asparagus when the farmers market opened,” Aegerter said. “This year, it's just starting.”

Q: What's new this year? What's returning?

A: The market will have at least five new vendors this year, including one that sells flavored olive oil.

Aegerter also is actively recruiting prepared food vendors from local restaurants.

This year, the market will offer ten weeks of entertainment. Buskers—street performers—also are welcome, and they can sign up the day of their performance at the market.

Chef Raechal Maat from St. Mary's Hospital will give cooking demonstrations with seasonal produce the third Saturday of each month.

Farmers market regulars will be pleased to see the return of Bridget's Family Bakery and County Lane Bakery.

Q: There's a new “no dog” policy this year. How did that come about?

A: The farmers market board created the policy.  The market has previously had “no dog” policies and then relaxed the rules.

“We really did try to find a compromise,” Aegerter said. “We really had to talk about it.”

People enjoy taking their animals out with them, but several close calls and some property damage convinced the board a ban was necessary, she said.

Incidents included a board member almost being bit, a dog jumping up on a stroller, and minor tussles between dogs that could have escalated to something more serious.

There were complaints from customers, too.

Aegerter acknowledged that not all farmers markets ban dogs. In the past, the market has tried to get around the issue by asking people to muzzle their dogs, but it was an unpopular policy with pet owners and it was difficult to enforce.

Q: Can't people walk their dogs on the public sidewalks at the market?

A: Although the space the market occupies includes public sideways and roadway, the market is allowed to set rules for the area during its use, Aegerter said.

Q: Some people have said they want to be able to buy more things at the market, such as Michigan peaches or seafood. Why does Janesville market insist on only local vendors?

A: The variety of farmers markets—and farmers market policies—are great for consumers, Aegerter said.

However, the board of the Janesville Farmers Market has had a policy of local/Wisconsin product from local vendors from the beginning, she said.

This means local producers don't have to compete with vendors who bring in produce grown elsewhere—or purchased at distributors—and then undercut other sellers.

The locally grown by local producers policy also means buyers can connect with growers and learn about their farms. That's especially important for people interested in organic or naturally-grown food.

“It's really a great place for education,” Aegerter said. “Our vendors are really good at that.”

That “education” can range from explaining what to do with a bunch of kale to why there are no green peppers available at the beginning of May.

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