Wis. winter farmers market grows popular

  • Article by: THERESA CLIFT
  • Associated Press
  • January 11, 2014 - 12:05 AM

WAUSAU, Wis. — The Wausau summer farmers market has been a staple for more than 25 years. But Craig Carlson, who has 5,000 chickens on his family farm in Hamburg, needed a way to sell to his customers in the winter, too.

Two years ago, he began setting up shop every other week in the parking lot where the summer market is held.

"We had so many eggs, we didn't know what to do with them," he told Daily Herald Media (

Now, customers of Carlson and many other local farmers and bakers can shop indoors during the first winter farmers market every Saturday.

"We started the winter market, because a lot of people have been craving it," said Tony Schultz, co-owner of Stoney Acres Farm in Athens.

Similar to the summer market, the winter market gives local farmers a chance to sell their organic produce, fall storage vegetables, baked goods from scratch, pasteurized meats and more.

There are usually about 15 vendors and up to 400 customers, Schultz said.

"The farmers market is not just about great fresh local food, it's about a great social time on a Saturday morning," Schultz said. "People come here to talk about where their food comes from and how it's produced. You get that unique perspective from growers."

Katherine Wright of Wausau gets all of her chickens from the Carlson farm.

"We like the organic food, helping out local farmers, and it tastes better," Wright said.

Wright is not alone. Carlson said he has had some of the same customers for nearly a decade.

"That tells me they're satisfied," Carlson said. "But you're not going to convert the world. People have come to trust what's in the grocery store is good for them. ... Sometimes we need to ask more questions."

Many farmers-market customers say they want to help Marathon County remain one of the strongest farming counties in the state.

"They feel good about putting their moneyinto the local community so that dollar is recycled," Schultz said. "My regulars give me a reason for being here."

Lisa Macco of Wausau is one of those regulars. She has been buying her produce from Schultz for five years.

"(Farming) is so close to our roots in Marathon County and our history," she said.

About a year ago, Macco helped form Slow Food Marathon County, a local chapter of Slow Food USA, which encourages community-supported farming.

Schultz said the event provides a local market for small farmers, which is especially important for young farmers just starting out.

Often, that can lead to other opportunities, such as partnerships with local grocery stores and restaurants, as it did for Gary and Jalyn Burich, bakers in the village of Granton.

A health food store manager once tried Buriches' bread at a farmers market, and now their bread is sold in many Merrill-area stores.

"I'm thankful for farmers markets, because it's how we started," Jalyn Burich said.

An AP Member Exchange Feature shared by Daily Herald Media

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