Walk-ups open for Dane Co. Farmer’s Market with new look, rules

Market manager says she's unsure how long it will last
Published: Aug. 1, 2020 at 6:07 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Dane County Farmer’s Market welcomed back shoppers on Saturday, in the first day of walk-ups since the pandemic shut it down on Capitol Square.

And it looked quite different. The market was on Willow Island at the Alliant Energy Center, where the drive-thru shopping model had been held since late March. The walk-ups brought in additional food vendors for approximately 60 total vendors, according to market manager Sarah Elliott.

Quentin Carpenter from Carpenters’ Farm has been a vendor for 38 years. In the last several months, he sold produce through the drive-thru option.

He said, “It was okay, and the sales were pretty good. But it just wasn’t a lot of fun for customers or for the vendors because we couldn’t talk to people, even the people who were regular customers for years. We had to say just, ‘hi’ and ‘bye,’ as they cruised by. This isn’t the Square, but it’s a lot closer.”

Elliott explained that the walk-up market had to be smaller than the one typically found on the Square, which had brought 20,000 people weekly. Per the plan approved by public health officials, vendors had to be spaced at least 6 feet apart, and guests were expected to do the same.

“When we’re on the Square, we don’t have any authority over the food trucks or the craft vendors or the political tables or any of these other things that happen,” Elliott said. “But at Willow island we get to control the whole space and have just our farmers there. That difference is what enables us to be open as an essential food access point.”

Market organizers added more rules, like no touching products or eating on site. They also said they will enforce a mask policy for customers ages 5 and up.

The walk-up, still in its pilot phase, will continue to be evaluated, according to Elliott. For that reason, she added, it is “premature” to know how long it will last.

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