The Dane County Farmers' Market stands as a connection between Madison and the farms that surround it.
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You love their products. Now learn the stories behind these popular market sellers.
Fantôme Farm, Ridgeway
Anne Topham grew up eating Velveeta, so when she first tasted French-style goat cheese, it was a revelation. Topham and her partner, Judy Borree, started one of the nation’s first goat cheese dairies in 1984 and soon were at the farmers’ market, cajoling shoppers to sample their chevre. “We thought if we could get them to taste it, we could get them to buy it,” Topham says. Nearly thirty years and multiple awards later, she attributes their success to the farmers’ market: “If we had to sell in a store, it never would have worked.”
Find them at the market: South Carroll Street, across from Fromagination
Yang's Fresh Produce, Brooklyn
During the Vietnam War in her native Laos, Mee Xiong would hop on helicopters to sell soda to U.S. soldiers. “She’s always been an entrepreneur,” says her son Yeng Yang, who moved to Wisconsin in 1986 with his parents and siblings. The Hmong family, who began selling at the farmers’ market in 1993, attends farming conferences, recently launched a CSA and soon will sell certified organic produce. “We want to take a family farm o a new level,” Yang says. “We want this to be my mom’s legacy.”
Find them at the market: West Mifflin Street, across from Flavor of India
The Flower Farmers:
Lost Lake Acres Greenhouse, Fall River
Richard and Ethel Salzman and their son, Rich, own a veritable greenhouse empire—eleven structures that shelter forty thousand square feet of geraniums, begonias, million bells, you name it. The Salzmans, who sold produce at the first farmers’ market, grow asparagus, melons and tomatoes, too, but they’re best known for Ethel’s gorgeous hanging flower baskets, which draw people from across Wisconsin to the Salzmans’ Dodge County farm. “When people drive up in a U-Haul,” Rich says, “you know they’re good customers.”
Find them at the market: Corner of South Pinckney and King streets, across from U.S. Bank
The Heir Apparent:
The Summer Kitchen, Highland
“Jelly Jim” Schroeder, one of the market’s original vendors, began grooming his successor more than thirty years ago. The jammaker paid eight-year-old Dan Aultman a silver dollar every week to help with farm chores, promising the boy, “If you keep working hard, this place will be yours.” Schroeder died last year, and now Aultman carries the mantle, selling fifty-plus varieties of jams, jellies and relishes. The money Aultman made when he bought the business went to a college agricultural scholarship—reason enough to buy a jar of apple butter, of which Schroeder was so proud.
Find them at the market: West Main Street, across from Brocach
The Chef Favorite:
Garden To Be, Mount Horeb
If you’ve dined out in Madison, likely you’ve tasted something grown by Scott Williams and April Yancer. Their nine-acre farm, Garden to Be, supplies herbs, edible flowers and vegetables to thirty-three local restaurants, from L’Etoile to Mermaid Café to Eno Vino. The couple also design and tend restaurant gardens, and soon will offer services to anyone who needs help planning a backyard garden, growing organic, or improving a feeble crop.
Find them at the market: East Main Street, across from Walgreens
Farm to Feast
City chefs committed to the farm-to-table movement share menu highlights that make the most of local ingredients.
Harvest sources ingredients from more than seventy local farms and producers. Their roasted pork loin with choke berry compote, candied chestnuts and Door County cherry gastrique features pork from Lange Family Farm, choke berries from Carandale Farm, cherries from Jim and Crystal Barnard’s farm in Door County and shallots from Black Earth Organics.
Chef Tory Miller taps more than ninety local producers for ingredients. His dry-aged steak with gruyère latkes features beef from Fountain Prairie Farm, potatoes from Butter Mountain, gruyère from Forgotten Valley, confit made with Black Earth Valley shallots, ragoût with Herb ‘n Oyster mushrooms, Snug Haven spinach and blue cheese-bone marrow compound butter made from Emmi Roth cheese, Fountain Prairie bone marrow and Sassy Cow Creamery butter.
The Madison Club:
The Club’s roasted bison entrée features bison from Cherokee Farm, toasted wheat berries from Washington Island, risotto made with mushrooms from Herb ‘n Oyster, a remoulade with Harmony Valley celery root, Jordandal Farm bacon and Cherokee sunflower oil, and pickled crosnes and sautéed rutabaga from Harmony Valley
The restaurant’s croque monsieur with bayonne ham and gruyère is made with bread from Madison Sourdough, ham from Jones Farm, cheese from Roth Käse and eggs from New Century Farms.
Underground Food Collective:
At a dinner they co-hosted in February, the Collective served caramelized carrot soup with smoked pig’s head, corn fritters and a cabbage chive slaw made with pork and red corn from Henry Morren, carrots, smoked peppers and pumpkin seed oil from Driftless Organics, cabbage from Jones Valley Farm and baby chives from Garden to Be.