Return of Farmers Markets

by Tim Froberg

Downtown Appleton Farm Market

Downtown Kaukauna

Farmers Market

Future Neenah Farmers Market

Farmers markets are a summertime staple in Wisconsin. In the past, they have been part food fest, part festival.

This summer’s farmers markets may lack the latter element, but most have returned to the Fox Cities following COVID-19-related delays.

Downtown Appleton Farm Market is the largest in the area. It opened July 4 and is held Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on College Avenue.

More than 80 vendors – spaced at least 10 feet apart with a marked 6-foot separation between customers – sell fresh fruits and vegetables, breads and baked goods, exotic meats, cheeses, and specialty food. Hot food vendors must package food in sealed to-go containers and customers are asked not to eat on site.

“A lot of community members really need the farm market, especially now,” said Djuanna Hugdahl, director of the Appleton Farm Market. “You can shop in an open-air environment – you’re not locked up inside four walls – and the farm market is so beneficial for the farmers.”

Perhaps the biggest change from previous years is that live entertainment, along with arts and crafts booths, have been eliminated to avoid crowds.

Masks are required for all staff members and vendors. They’re not mandatory for the public but are encouraged and free masks are available.

“It’s unfortunate that we won’t have our crafts booths or our popular kids’ market, but the whole idea is to limit gathering in one area,” said Hugdahl. “We’re just trying to keep everyone safe.”

Future Neenah Farmers Market opened its 28th season on June 13 and runs through October 17. It takes place on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon at Shattuck Park.

Like the Appleton market, Neenah resumed with social distancing measures and without craft vendors or live entertainment.

“We’re going to assess as the summer goes along and add more things so we can get back to that normal phase,” said Meredith Rathe, events coordinator for Future Neenah. “We still have our essential vendors, so we have the food and the flowers, and we still have that farmers market feel.”

Only fresh produce and prepared food vendors will be present, and prepared foods must be packaged to-go and consumed off-site. Product sampling is not allowed and there are no public seating areas. One-way traffic has been implemented and handwashing/sanitation stations are available. Masks are not mandatory for vendors or customers, but market sponsor Tundraland is passing out free masks for customers.

Downtown Kaukauna Farmers Market kicked off its annual season July 11 and runs through October 10. It is held Saturdays from 7:30 a.m. to noon at 101 Crooks Ave.

The market opened with 22 vendors – significantly less than usual – but more are expected to join through the summer.

Social distancing measures will be followed and there will be no craft vendors or live entertainment. Masks are encouraged, but not mandatory.

“The biggest change is that we’ve had to cut down our tools that people use to socialize, such as picnic tables where they’re used to sitting down and eating,” said Gidget Peerenboom, farmers market manager. “That’s sad because a lot of the stuff we’ve had to eliminate is a big part of it. But we’re all about safety first.”