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New winter farmers market debuts this weekend at State Fair Park

Brightonwoods Orchard owner Bill Stone (center) will sell cider and a dozen different apple varieties at the new winter farmers market at State Fair Park. Tom Sonderegger (left) chats with Stone.

Brightonwoods Orchard owner Bill Stone (center) will sell cider and a dozen different apple varieties at the new winter farmers market at State Fair Park. Tom Sonderegger (left) chats with Stone. Photo By Tom Lynn

Nov. 6, 2009

Summer may be over, but not all farmers markets disappear when the mercury dives and the snow flies.

A new Saturday morning winter farmers market called the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market debuts this weekend in the lobby of the Tommy Thompson Youth Center at State Fair Park (Gate 5 at 640 S. 84th St.).

Some 20 local vendors will offer everything from farm-fresh eggs and apples to farmstead cheese and yogurt from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through April 24.

The new winter market taps a national trend of farmers markets extending seasonal connections between food producers and consumers to meet a growing demand for year-round local food, according to market manager Deb Deacon.

More farmers in cold climates are stretching the growing season with protective hoop houses and are preserving produce through canning, freezing and cold storage, she said.

"People get wistful when farmers markets close for the season, but they don't have to," Deacon said. "The new indoor market should keep shoppers happy throughout the winter."

Deacon hopes area chefs will be regular customers, and that fans of summer farmers markets will brave harsh weather to support farmers during a slow time of year.

"I'm going to be like the Postal Service: Neither rain, nor sleet, nor snow will keep me from this market - though an occasional term paper may," said Susie Seidelman, 28, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She lives in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood and shops three farmers markets through summer and fall.

"My partner and I bought an upright freezer, and we blanched and froze chard, zucchini, yellow squash, berries and cabbage. We also made applesauce," Seidelman said. "Buying from local farmers helps me feel connected to the growing cycle, and the fact that food has seasons. It saves me a lot of money . . . and I get to meet the farmer who grew it. It's a win-win."

Fall's bounty

The shopper's bonanza at the new winter farmers market will include late-fall vegetables such as cabbage and squash, mushrooms, apples, pears and quince, plus locally produced sorghum, maple syrup and honey.

Dry-cured meat, farm-raised raised elk and pheasant, farm-fresh eggs, pastured poultry and grass-fed Piedmontese beef also will be available, along with handmade caramels, pies, breads, noodles, pancake mixes, Wisconsin-milled oats, relishes, salsas, fresh goat cheese and aged cow's milk cheeses.

The new indoor market aims to serve shoppers of all income levels, including FoodShare recipients. The market should have an electronic machine to process QUEST cards by Nov. 21.

The Westown Farmers Market began its indoor season at the Shops of Grand Avenue in downtown Milwaukee on Wednesday and will run the first and third Wednesdays of the month through Feb. 17.

The Kenosha Harbor Winter Market, a Saturday morning market, opens this weekend at the Rhode Center for the Arts and continues through winter.

Several area outdoor farmers markets are still open, including the Saturday Fondy Farmers Market, which runs through Nov. 21, and the Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday afternoon West Allis Farmers Market, which runs through Nov. 28.

The Dane County Farmers Market on the Square in Madison wraps up its outdoor season Saturday. The Dane County Indoor Market begins its eighth winter run next Saturday at Monona Terrace from 7:30 a.m. to noon.

Bill Stone, owner of Brightonwoods Orchard in Burlington, pushed for the central location of a new indoor market in Milwaukee in the wake of disappointing apple sales last winter at the twice-monthly indoor farmers market at the Shops of Grand Avenue.

Stone got the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association behind the effort so there would be a prime spot to sell apples through winter.

He was pressing fresh apple cider this week and packing a dozen apple varieties to take to the new market, including blushing goldens, Winesap and Empire - "the heritage apples you don't see in grocery stores."

A complete list of vendors and products is available at www.mcwfm.org.

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