Visit the local farmers markets for fresh fruits and vegetables

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Kathy Moczulewski sells and educates customers about her delicious heirloom vegetables. She also provides herbs for purchase at the Prairie Street Farmers Market. (Photos by Addison Mumm)

Jim Fox has been growing produce his whole life. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available every weekend at the West Side Farmers Market.

Prairie Street Farmers Market is open every Saturday starting in May and ending in October.

By Addison Mumm

 

With growing health concerns, many people have turned to organic foods. What better place to get healthy fresh fruits and vegetables than at local farmers markets.

 

For years, farmers markets have been available to Prairie du Chien and the surrounding areas. Depending on the growing season, fruits, vegetables, baked goods and meats are available for the choosing.

 

Long-time vendor Jim Fox is the owner and manager of the West Side Farmers Market. Being a food vendor and farmer has been in Fox’s family for many years. His father sold produce in Iowa. After Fox’s father passed away, his mother took over with Fox’s help. Fox opened up the West Side Farmers Market 11 years ago. With his two acres of garden, Fox supplies fruits and vegetables at his stand across from the Prairie du Chien Chamber of Commerce office, with access from Wisconsin Street.

 

“It’s how we make our living in the summertime, providing fresh vegetables and fruits to our customers,” Fox said.

 

Starting their selling season the first Saturday in May and ending the last Sunday in October, the West Side Farmers Market is open every Saturday and Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fox’s wife, Barb, also runs a ‘branch’ of their farmers market in Blackhawk Junction every Saturday morning from 7 to about 10:30 a.m.

 

“We sell a lot of peaches and melons that are brought in,” Fox said. “We have had customers from all over the world stop in; it’s great to meet them all.”

 

The West Side Farmers Market sells jams, jellies, fruits, vegetables and has a few extra stands next to it that offer different sewn items, jewelry, lawn décor and more. The farmers market accepts WIC, EBT and senior coupons as well as cash.

 

The West Side Farmers Market isn’t the only market in town, though. The Prairie Street Farmers Market located on Blackhawk Avenue at Lucky Park, runs every Saturday 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., from early May until October. Offering locally-grown produce, raised meats and sourced bakery items as well as other products, the Prairie Street Farmers Market has been around for six years.

 

One of the market’s newest vendors is Kathy Moczulewski from Heirloom Quartermasters. With 30 years of growing her own foods in her garden, Moczulewski educates other green thumbs and customers about her techniques.

 

“Heirlooms are, I guess you could call it, ‘pure’ produce,” Moczulewski said. “They are the seeds that are naturally found, not cross-bred to bring out a certain quality, and are the seeds our forefathers brought over on the Mayflower.”

 

With organic foods becoming all the rage, Moczulewski wanted to find an alternative to GMO growing. She doesn’t use sprays or herbicides. Although she is not certified as an organic grower, Moczulewski uses some organic techniques for growing her garden. 

 

Unlike hybrid vegetables, the cross-bred, not-exactly-natural vegetables, have less nutritional value than heirlooms.

 

“You can trace the history of almost every heirloom vegetable, like where it came from or how it came to America,” Moczulewski mentioned. “You are helping to save our heritage and preserve a bit of our history when you grow, harvest, purchase or consume heirloom vegetables.”

 

Some of her top sellers include her lettuce, green/yellow/purple snap beans and carrots. Other produce Moczulewski grows includes herbs, a variety of tomatoes—cherry, pink bumble bee, purple bumble bee, baby roma and candy cherry, a multitude of peppers (sweet, hot and mild­) and pimentos.

 

“People also say, ‘I didn’t know you could grow those!’” Moczulewski laughed. “Well, they have to come from somewhere! We like educating people about our products.”

 

Moczulewski and the other vendors have created a small family down at Lucky Park.

 

“We keep an eye out for what the other vendors are selling,” Moczulewski said. “We try to keep a large variety of foods and direct customers in the right direction if they are looking for something in particular.”

 

Moczulewski stated all the vendors help each other out.

 

“The first one done for the day goes down the line and helps everyone pack up. We all leave at the same time; no one is left behind,” she said.

 

The group of vendors started with four and has worked its way up to 10 or 12, according to Tom Martin, proprietor of Mount Land Farms and a local vendor.

 

“It’s such a cornucopia of options, such variety,” Martin said. “We have baked, canned, pickled, preserved and fresh foods available. This is where you should start your weekend in Prairie du Chien.”

 

As a resource to the community, the Prairie Street Farmers Market emphasizes local economy and locally grown goods. 

 

“Agriculture shouldn’t be owned by corporate companies, but by families. That’s the way it was in the beginning!” Martin said.

 

A common misconception, because of commercial growers, is expecting out-of-season produce at the farmers markets.

 

“You can’t get sweet corn in May,” Martin said. “That’s not how the rhythm of Wisconsin works. There’s an ecological timeline and timetable when foods grow and don’t grow; we provide what is in season.”

 

Another bump in the road vendors at the farmers markets deal with is complaints about pricing.

 

“There’s a labor to this,” Martin added. “We put in time, labor and love for these products, and make them available to the public.”

 

Moczulewski mentioned the work she puts into her garden.

 

“It takes a lot of time and effort,” she said. “Hybrid farmers grow all of their product at once, but we have to spread it out so the vegetables don’t go bad and they are available to customers week after week. If I were to plant everything at once, that would be a very short window for customers.”

 

As the farmers market grows in Prairie du Chien, customers help keep the local economy alive.

 

“I enjoy meeting new people,” said Prairie Street Farmers Market manager Terry Nagal. “We try to get music each weekend; whether it’s high school kids or adults, entertainment is a new thing here. We also try to get new vendors for more variety.”

 

The Prairie Street Farmers Market is looking for new vendors and musical talent to perform for customers and vendors. For more information, check out the Prairie Street Farmers Market Facebook page.

 

Whether it is at the West Side Farmers Market or the Prairie Street Farmers Market, supporting local farmers and their products is a great service to the community, and  a tasty one as well.

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