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Knapp's Fresh Vegies

Madison Market

Knapp's Fresh Vegies has been selling at the Dane Co. Farmer's Market since the summer of '88. For the first 5 years as a "daily" vendor and since then as a "seasonal" stall holder. For those first years, I would sleep overnite in line in the truck to get a good spot. Since then, they have changed the rules to a "seniority" system, rather than the "first come" system. But now the wait to get a season stall is more like 8 - 10 years.

The long wait for a season stall is because this is one of the best farmer's markets in the whole country. Some rate it only behind the San Francisco market.

I start my Saturday mornings about 2:30 AM. I'm not a good morning person, so I need a little time to have a coffee and "get going" before we leave about 4:00 AM. Our 85 mile drive gets us to the capitol square around 6:00 AM. We have a lift gate on our truck, but it has to be folded up by 6:30 when the "Daily" vendors are allowed on the square to take the sites that aren't filled already. Some customers will already be cruising around the square looking for stuff from their favorite vendors. Our current stand is on the north corner, right across from the YWCA.

One of the reasons this market is so popular is because it has a wider diversity of items than most markets allow. Besides the usual plants, flowers and produce, you will also find bakery, meats, cheese, candy, pasta, pesto, jams and jellies. All these are things that require a processing license and an inspected kitchen/facility. Most markets just don't want the hassle of all those licenses, so they just don't allow those things. This market is run by a membership board and has a paid manager. If you need a license for your product and don't submit a copy to the manager, you can't sell.

All produce has to be grown by the people selling it, NO wholesale shipped in stuff here. For the processed items, there is one other rule that doesn't apply at other markets -- you have to grow at least 51% of the ingredients of things like the jams or pesto. For the cheese, the seller is either the farmer that owns the cows that the milk come from, or mostly the seller is the small cheese factory that made the cheese. Meats are from animals raised by the farmer selling it but processed at a state inspected processor and sold frozen (and kept in a freezer during the market hours).

Another reason this market is so popular is the customers. Madison is both a college town and our state capitol. It's also just off a junction of 2 interstate highways and on the way "up north" for a lot of Chicagoans. So we have business people, teachers, students, tourists, legislators, and even tour buses most every Saturday, May thru the beginning of November. When the weather is nice, people make the market a social event and cruise around several times. Even when rainy, there are enough diehard customers to make it worth going.

Usually by noon things begin to die down as many sellers will be about sold out. Tho the market officially runs until 2:00 PM, few sellers stay that long other than during the packing up process. Usually we are leaving the square by 2:30 PM. That gets us home about 4:30 PM. It's a long day, but usually more than worth it. Tho as I'm getting older, it's been getting harder and harder to "bounce back" the next day.

Here is the Dane Co. Farmer's Market's own web site for more info.

Here is a link to a copy of the page when we were the featured seller of the week in the spring of 05. I believe 'Dane 101' is a U - Wis. student project, but I'm not really sure. There are a few mistakes in the facts as reported, but overall it's a good article about us. Since I saved the page and then reloaded it to my web site without checking any links or anything, I have no idea if any of the links on that page will work or not. I was only interested in the report about us.

This is our stand in the fall of 01. It was a cold windy day near the end of the market season. As we are on the north corner, spring and fall can sometimes be pretty awful if the wind is coming out of the north, right off the lake there. That isn't me in the pic, but a friend that helps out. We also have a newer truck now.

This is our stand in the spring of 05. That's Ray and our new truck shortly after getting set up in the morning in the top pic. The bottom pic is later in the day when customers were around. On the racks, each flat is a different variety of tomato. There are over 100 varieties there.

Last edited 1/16/06
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