Farmers market helps fuel business in Port

Weekly event that begins for the season Saturday brings people downtown not only to buy produce but to patronize shops
By 
KRISTYN HALBIG ZIEHM
Ozaukee Press staff

The Port Washington farmers market opens this Saturday, offering a wide variety of farm-fresh produce, crafts and other handmade products to shoppers.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each Saturday, through Oct. 29 shoppers flock to East Main Street from Franklin to Wisconsin streets, where vendors line the road with colorful tents and bushels of goods to sell.

“We have a really good lineup,” Port Main Street Executive Director Kristina Tadeo said. “Most of our vendors are returning, people who have a good customer base and people like, but we also have a good lineup of new vendors.”

Although the first markets of the season typically aren’t flush with produce, given the fact summer has barely set in, Tadeo said a number of the vendors have been starting their produce in greenhouses.

“I’m hopeful we’ll have early season produce,” she said.

The farmers market serves many roles. It’s not only as a place to buy fresh foods, it is also a place to gather. It’s not uncommon to find groups of people chatting, sharing the news of the day, as they peruse the produce.

The impact doesn’t stop there. Downtown merchants see an uptick in traffic due to the market, Tadeo said.

“I think it definitely funnels people into downtown,” she said.

The Wisconsin Main Street program has done studies that show healthy farmers markets help draw business to downtown merchants, Tadeo said. Although Port  Main Street hasn’t conducted studies of its own, she said, the impact is evident.

“Anecdotally, we find it’s true,” she said. “Absolutely the businesses do see an impact from the market, especially the coffeehouses and eateries. Many people bookend their visits to the market with stops for breakfast or lunch.

“You can see people walking around after they’ve been to the market checking out the shops in downtown.”

To help with that effort, Main Street is bringing in other activities to involve not just adults but children as well, including music virtually every week.

For example, this weekend’s market will include a storytime offered by the Niederkorn Library at 10 and 11 a.m., Starr Fitness will do a food prep demonstration and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory will provide a children’s activity and offer native plants.

There will also be a 4-H brat stand, and music by Jay Bullock from 10 a.m. to noon.

Tadeo said Main Street is making a concerted effort to market this year’s event. In addition to including the event on Main Street’s Facebook page, the market also has its own page.

A new logo has been created for the market, and Main Street is emblazoning it on totes and T-shirts that will be sold at the market this summer.

“We’re giving it its own identity,” Tadeo said. “The market has been kind of a hidden gem. It’s a laid-back style event. But we want to make it more prominent. It’s something special.”

The market lineup this year includes Curd Nerd, which will offer fresh cheese curds each week, and Swiss Alpinage, which makes specialty cheeses.

Crumb and Sponge, which offered artisinal sourdough bread at the market a couple times last year, will be a regular vendor this year, as will Fred’s Breads, which makes gluten-free breads and protein shakes, and the custom cookie maker Flour Child.

Hoe in the Garden Organic Grist Mill will offer milled oats and grains as well as handmade pastas, while Cassie’s Natural Living will sell elderberry products, including lemonades and iced teas.

Alive and Vibrant, which sells super green smoothies and specialty shakes, and Marge’s Canning, whose canned goods sold out quickly last season, will also be among the vendors.

“It’s a good mix of different types of foods,” Tadeo said.

The vendors, she noted, hail from throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Port’s market has grown so popular that Main Street has hired Jen Sapiro, who also organizes the popular winter and spring indoor markets, as the market manager.

“She’s well aware of what it takes to run a market,” Tadeo said. “Her connections have been really beneficial. She’s hooked up with new vendors. “

Farmers markets are popular events, held in many Ozaukee County communities. But Port’s is the oldest, started decades ago when four downtown merchants decided to hold a harvest festival to bring people to the shopping district.

The fledgling market took up only about a half-block in downtown, with three or four regular vendors attending.

Today, bolstered by the slow foods movement and the desire of people to know where their food is coming from, the market, hundreds of shoppers flock to downtown Port each week.

“Our weeks are full” with a complete slate of vendors — even for this weekend’s debut, Tadeo said

“That doesn’t always happen,” she said. “That’s a great indicator for the season.”

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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