The Farmers’ Market

by Gaby Felknor

Friday nights in Madison may belong to State Street and Sunday afternoons to the Union Terrace, but Saturday mornings mean just one thing: the Capitol Square Farmers’ Market. So instead of snoozing the afternoon away, shake the sleep from your heads and join me for a homemade scone and hot cup of Joe.

Of all the unique weekend venues Wisconsin’s capital city offers, the Farmers’ Market is one of my favorite destinations. Monday through Friday the square is occupied by men and women in business suits, but Saturday mornings belong to a different crowd. This morning it is filled with men in vintage leather coats, Amish girls dressed in bonnets, middle-aged men clad in camouflage, and über moms pushing their sleeping children in strollers. There’s even a fair amount of bleary-eyed students like myself, clearly unaccustomed to such an early hour.

Farmers’ tents line the outer edge of the entire square, each with a more picturesque name than the last: Savory Accents, Fountain Prairie Farms, Gentle Breeze Honey, and Fruit of the Bloom are a few. I’m hungry just thinking about it! The multitude of farms represented here makes you realize just how much of our state is made up of acre after acre of bountiful farmland. And it’s not just your typical fruits and vegetables; farmers sell homemade pasta, candles, honey, jam, baked goods, meat, anything that could possibly be pickled, and virtually every type of cheese.

Walking by a floral tent I’m engulfed in the rich fragrance of sunshine daffodils, royal blue chrysanthemums and lilies of every color imaginable. A sign reads, “four dollars for a dozen, pick the ones you want.” Don’t mind if I do! After all, a girl can never turn down fresh flowers.

I keep walking until a new smell meets my nose that makes my stomach growl: fresh baked goods from Pilgrim’s Pantry. Looks like I found my breakfast.

“Hey der, how ya doin’?” the old woman behind the counter asks, welcoming me with a warm smile as if we’ve known each other for years. This is a typical greeting at the farmers’ market. Everyone treats you like an old friend. We exchange some small talk as I debate between a cranberry muffin and a blueberry scone. There’s no pressure, no pushy businessman behind you trying to get his breakfast before work. Everything is relaxed. It brings the humanity back into our hectic, on-the-go world where buyer and seller hardly exchange more than a few monosyllabic words. My new friend Evelyn sells me on the scone.

“Made this morning with fresh blueberries picked jus’ yesterday, dear.”

With the sun barely peaking over the horizon there is still a slight chill in the air so I savor every bite of the warm scone. A line snakes behind a large cart for Johnson Brothers’ Coffee Roaster and I eagerly join it. After ordering a small cup of the New Guinea roast I realize in total disappointment that I only have a dollar left on me, and the cup of Joe costs $1.75.

“Tha’s perfec’ly fine. I’ve got this one for ya,” says the man with a grey goatee and ponytail working the cash register. How these people are all so darn happy and kindhearted is beyond me, but it may have something to do with working in the ground with their bare hands every day instead of sitting behind a desk in an office.

I sit down on a bench a few feet away from one of my farmers’ market favorites: a man who could be Willie Nelson’s twin (complete with a 10 gallon hat and a bolo tie) playing a guitar, harmonica hanging around his neck. He sings Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” the sadness in his voice is evident and genuine, but harmonious just the same. It’s now about 7:30, but the frost hasn’t burned off yet. I pop the lid off my coffee and breathe in the warm hazelnut. Just in time for the song’s harmonica solo I catch a few rays of golden sun emerging from behind the Capital.

It’s just another beautiful Madison morning. One of many to come.

Until next time, stay chic,
Capital City Socialite