There are a lot of things to love about the Madison area in the summertime - beautiful days at the lake, catching a Forward FC or Mallards game, taking a walk through one of the many wonderful local parks, free music on Willy Street, King Street, McPike Park, the Square… The list just goes on and on!

While we spend the long Wisconsin winters dreaming of all these fun outdoor activities, nothing gets us more excited about summer than the Dane County Farmers’ Market.

It’s a great place to get out and connect with the community, check out some great local produce and crafts, and spend time right in the heart of the city overlooking the iconic and majestic State Capitol.

While we’ve long loved Wisconsin’s largest farmers market, it turns out there was a whole lot we didn’t actually know about it.

So we did a deep dive into its history and role in the Badger State and found a lot of fun facts to share with you. Let’s dig in!

1. Half a Century of Serving Dane County

That’s right, the Dane County Farmers’ Market is officially half a century old this year!

The Dane County Farmers’ Market started in 1972 when Madison Mayor, Bill Dyke, was looking for a way to bridge the gap between Dane County’s rural and urban populations.

The first market took place on the first Saturday of 1972 and was an instant success, starting a Madison tradition that has continued for 50 years and counting!

2. Not Just on Saturdays…

While the Saturday Farmers’ Market on the Capitol square is by far the biggest, there is another Market event that takes place on Wednesdays.

If you’re interested, you can check out the Wednesday Market which takes place from mid-April to the first Wednesday of November.

The Wednesday Market features many of the most popular vendors from the Saturday Market and takes place on the 200 Block of Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

3. 100s of Vendors

As the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the country, the Dane County Farmers’ Market features over 275 vendors throughout the year and over 150 vendors every Saturday.

Vendors serve up a range of tasty produce, baked goods, and other delectables, as well as beautiful flowers, arts and crafts, and so much more.

No matter what you’re looking for, if it’s in season, you can bet that the Farmers’ Market has it on hand!

4. But What Does Producer-Only Mean?

As a producer-only farmers’ market, the Dane County Farmers’ Market only features vendors which actually grow or make their own goods.This allows people to actually meet the folks in the area who produce the food we all love so much.

Another great part about the market being producer-only is that all of the vendors are Wisconsin-based. This is great for keeping money in the pockets of Wisconsinites, but also for getting a real taste of what our wonderful state has to offer. (Hint: it’s way more than just cheese!)

5. Not Just a Farmers’ Market

While the vendors make up the backbone of the market, there are also plenty of other things to check out while you’re there.

With so many community members present, non-profits and political groups often set up shop on the Capitol grounds to share their missions with the community and spread whatever messages they are looking to spread.
Arts & crafts vendors and concession stands are featured across the street and have plenty of unique offerings to check out.

If you’re a music lover, then you’re also definitely in luck. Many local musicians come out to the Farmers’ Market to share their sounds with the community.

6. Giving Back to the Community

In addition to creating a great community event, the Dane County Farmers’ Market has also created another great opportunity to give back to the community through their scholarship fund. The fund is set up to help students pursue careers in agriculture, ensuring that ag remains a key and driving component of Dane County and Wisconsin’s culture and economy for generations to come.

While producers and patrons started the scholarship program, community members are also encouraged to chip in. If you’re interested in helping the Dane County Farmers’ Market give back, you can find more information about the scholarship fund here.

7. Not Just in the Summer

If you find yourself in need of a Farmers’ Market fix during those long Wisconsin winters, then you’re in luck. The Dane County Farmers’ Market hosts two markets throughout the winter, including Holiday Markets and the Late Winter Market.

The Holiday Market takes place on Saturdays through mid-December at Monona Terrace.
Then it moves to the Garver Feed Mill for the Late Winter Market from January to April.

8. Grab Some Farmers’ Market Favorites

There’s no doubt that everything sold at the Farmers’ Market is fresh and delicious. And while Madisonians love all of the vendors, some products are always particularly popular.

This is Wisconsin, so of course you’ve got to grab some cheese curds. And the Dane County Farmers’ Market doesn’t disappoint – you’ll find no shortage of those squeaky treasures. Grab some fresh curds and dig in.
Some of our other favorites here at Starion Bank include Door County cherries, fresh-cut flowers, and Stella’s Bakery’s Hot and Spicy Cheese Bread (😛). Our stomachs are rumbling just thinking about all of the great options.

If you want to check out more, you can explore the Farmers’ Market’s offerings here!
Now that we’ve learned so much about the Dane County Farmers’ Market, we can’t wait to get back out there this weekend and stock up. 

So grab your friends and family, gather a few reusable bags, and get out there and enjoy one of Wisconsin’s most treasured events.

We’ll see you there!