By Greg Little
Editor’s Note: Kicks presents 20Q, a feature that introduces readers to people involved in the area’s arts and entertainment community. Compiled by kicks Editor Greg Little, each piece will include a short bio, photo and answers to questions that provide insight into not only that person’s artistic interests but also his or her unique personality.
Emily ArthurEmily Arthur doesn’t mind if you get fresh. In fact, she kind of encourages it.
As manager of the Janesville Farmers Market, it is Arthur’s mission to make sure area residents get the chance to purchase local produce, meats and other items every Saturday morning in downtown Janesville. She understands the importance of healthy foods, particularly in these times of mass sickness.
In fact, as a senior at Craig High School, Arthur earned her certified nursing assistant license and pondered a career in health care.
“Once I really started working, I knew it wasn’t for me,” she said. “I wanted a more flexible job and something that I would have holidays to spend with my family. I started working for myself with event planning and an in-home day care.”
A native of Washington state, Arthur’s family moved to Janesville when she was 2. She considers Bower City her hometown.
Away from the JFM, Arthur also serves as executive director for the Downtown Janesville Business Improvement District. When she’s not working, she spends time with her husband, Mat, and the couple’s son, Theodore, who was born in November. (“Yes, perfect timing with the off-season of the market. Many people ask if we planned it that way. Yes, we did.”)
The family also has a cat named Tippy, who was adopted from Arthur’s grandparents.
1. What is the most rewarding thing about being the manager for the Janesville Farmers Market? What is the biggest challenge? I enjoy meeting and working with different people who want the best for Janesville. A challenge would be communicating to the public why we don’t have watermelons at the market in May.
2. Name a skill you wish you had. I wish that I had the skill of woodworking. There are always so many cool projects I see, mostly while watching HGTV, that I wish I could just head to the garage and create.
3. Understanding you support all vendors at the farmers market, is there a go-to product you particularly like to take home as often as possible? My husband lives on Simple Bakery monkey bread. We actually have a standing order with them to set aside before they sell out.
4. What is your favorite food, and where is your favorite place to get it? I have a huge sweet tooth. My late grandpa and I were so similar. “Life is short, eat dessert first” was our motto. Nutella crepes are a guilty pleasure. Nothing was better than having them in Paris a few years ago.
5. Name one product not currently at the farmers market that you wish was available there. I would love to see us have a vendor that offered to prep your fruits/veggies right at the market.
6. You have two hours of free time. What do you do? Free time? With a new baby, that is unheard of. If I do get some free time, let’s see ... a hot bath, a hot meal. I do really enjoy walking around downtown and popping in and out of the businesses.
7. Do you have a pet peeve? My biggest pet peeve is when people have an issue with something as a vendor and don’t bring it to my attention but will talk to others about it. In most cases, it is an easy fix that someone did not need to blow out of proportion. I love problem-solving.
8. What does a normal day at the Janesville Farmers Market look like for you? Every Saturday in the summer, from May to October, I wake up and arrive on Main Street at around 5:45 a.m. Typically on the way, I will stop and pick up Dylan (our 16-year-old market volunteer who has been volunteering for about 10 years.) I pull the barricades out of our trailer and start setting them up on each end of the street by 6 a.m. Along the way, I usually will have one or two vehicles that parked overnight that I need to call in to have moved. More than a few times, I have found people sleeping inside them. I will then shift my vendors accordingly if there are vehicles in their normal booth spaces. Once barricades are up, I head back and load up our market tent, table, signs, etc., and head down to set up our booth. As vendors arrive, I flag any seasonal vendors that might need to shift for the day based on vehicles or cancellations. I will also show vendors who will just be vending that day where to set up. Around 7:30 a.m., I walk around and snap photos of some of the key items available at the market to share on social media. The market itself opens at 8 a.m., so at that point, you will either find me at our booth or problem-solving/mingling throughout the market. This year, you might also see my son, Theo, start to tag along. When the market closes at 1 p.m., Dylan and I clean up our booth and help other vendors load up. We then remove all the barricades, reopening the road by 2 p.m.
9. How did you end up as manager of the farmers market? Do you have previous experience in this field? I have previous event planning experience. I applied at the market because I loved attending markets in the area. I always had made notes on things I would love to see at the Janesville market, so when the job listing came up, I applied. I didn’t really think I would get the job as most market managers had previously been vendors. I was excited to see the board choosing a different route this time around. I am proud to say after implementing some new things we saw the market double its customer attendance and just about double our vendors.
10. What aspect of the market gives you the most pride? Janesville is my hometown, so I take a lot of pride in making it the best place to live and raise my kids. I have loved seeing the transformation of downtown and have really seen the market play a key role in it. This is a signature event that brings an average of 2,700 people downtown every Saturday in the summer. All of those shoppers are also shopping or noticing other shops/restaurants downtown.
11. With so much access to fresh produce, meats, cheeses and more, do you enjoy cooking? If so, what is your favorite thing to cook? My guilty pleasure are the breads! I also am sure to come home with a bouquet of flowers every week. With my husband being a very picky eater, I hardly ever get a chance to really take advantage and cook all of the lovely veggies. But my mom loves it. She always gives me a call on Saturday afternoon to see what I brought home that she can split with me. One of the things I always enjoy and cook throughout the season: strawberry jam. I worked for Skelly’s every summer throughout high school, so I became very familiar with their jam and always have requests from my family. I usually will make around 50 jars to freeze and divvy out. I also love rhubarb for sauce and pies, and asparagus is also a favorite. You can usually catch me snacking on half of a fresh muskmelon Saturday afternoons during that season. With my son turning 6 months in May, I am very excited to start making my own baby food with all of the fresh produce.
12. Are you more likely to be found burning through a pile of books of bingeing TV shows on Netflix? I hate to admit it because my mom is a librarian, but my husband and I are big Netflix and Disney+ fans.
13. In this day and age, how important is the word “organic” to consumers? We do see a lot more organic farmers and consumers seeking it out, but honestly, I think most people just like to know where their food is coming from and being able to talk directly with the farmers.
14. How do you select your vendors for the Janesville Farmers Market? The Janesville market is a producer-only market, meaning we only allow vendors who grow/make the products. When I get applications, I do my research and check over the vendors’ licenses, social media/website, etc. If I need to, I will even do a farm check. We take pride in the fact that you can come shop the market and not have to ask if that apple, zucchini, etc., is from around here. Most of our products come from a 25-mile radius and are picked the day before, if not the morning of the market.
15. Name a popular actor/singer/artist who doesn’t appeal to you. I have never been a huge fan of Ben Stiller.
16. If someone else paid for the experience, would you jump out of an airplane? Yes, skydiving is on my bucket list.
17. Do you have a green thumb? No, but my mom does, and that is why I love that she lives so close. I can grow the easy things. Hostas, rhubarb, anything that just comes back every year and doesn’t need constant watering.
18. Do you collect anything? I grew up on “Peter Rabbit.” Both my mom and aunt loved to collect items. I now share that same trait.
19. Who is your favorite Muppet? I find Rizzo really funny.
20. Do you visit other farmers markets to get ideas you can incorporate in Janesville? Yes I do. I will also usually go to one of the Dane County markets because they open a few weeks before our season. I also try and travel around to the weekday markets. Most are hard to visit because they fall at the same time as our market on Saturday. If yes, share one you have implemented. Yes, I do. I will also usually go to one of Dane County Farmers Markets because they open a few weeks before our season. I also try and travel around to the weekday markets. Most are hard to visit because they fall at the same time as our market on Saturday.