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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

How college students can support local farmers in the winter

The Dane County Farmers’ Market, the largest producer-only farmers’ market in the United States, has been a Saturday tradition in Madison since 1972. Shoppers flood the market on the Capitol Square in the spring, summer and fall, savoring fresh, in-season and local produce. 

Many college students struggle with affording and finding the time to buy local products. Typical grocery stores like Target and online retailers like Amazon are convenient and have expansive product selections. But, they fail to offer the benefits of shopping locally, including knowing where your food comes from, being environmentally sustainable and, most importantly, supporting local farmers. 

For students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, going to the farmers’ market is a budget-friendly, accessible and fun way to shop locally. But as the Capitol stands in silence during the long, cold winter months, are there ways students can still buy local products? The answer is yes. 

1. There are farmers' markets in the winter! 

From January until the weather is warm again in April, about 40 Dane County Farmers’ Market producers gather at the Late Winter Market. The market takes place at Garver Feed Mill on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. You will find seasonal Wisconsin-grown ingredients such as kale, winter squash and apples, as well as bakery items and, of course, cheeses. 

During the holiday season in November and December, the Monona Terrace also hosts the Holiday Market, where you can also find locally produced items. 

2. Take a bus and go to a grocery cooperative

All UW-Madison students are part of the Associated Students of Madison (ASM) Bus Pass program, meaning you can catch any Madison Metro bus for free. Co-ops are off campus, but with the bus pass, they are accessible. 

A co-op is an independent grocery store owned by community members and shoppers. The owners participate in decisions such as choosing what foods are on the shelves and determining how much the employees are compensated. Since co-ops are rooted in the local communities they serve, you can find more local and sustainable products than you would at a conventional grocery store. 

Willy Street Co-op is one of the grocery cooperatives in Madison with three stores. Almost all items at the store are displayed with a brief explanation of where they came from and how they were produced. 

3. Follow your local farms on social media

Stay connected with local farmers on social media. You can learn about the projects they work on during the cold months and gain knowledge about what it’s like to be a farmer. 

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Here are some accounts you can follow: 

  • @unconventional_acres : Unconventional Acres is a woman-owned farm that sells beef, pork and free range eggs. On their Instagram, they share photos of the animals and their life on the farm. 
  • @vitruvian farms : Vitruvian farms grow organic vegetables and mushrooms that are harvested, washed and delivered within a day. They share photos and videos of their organic sustainable farming practices on their Instagram. 
  • @chrisandlorisbakehouse : If you have been to the Dane County Farmers’ Market, you probably had Chris and Lori’s Bakehouse’s scones. Make sure to follow them so you won’t miss the first batch of the farmers’ market season! 
  • @danecofm : Follow the Dane County Farmers’ Market’s Instagram to stay up to date with their upcoming markets! 

Even though supporting your local farmers may be a little harder during the winter months, there are still many ways to get out there and shop local.

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