Winter of 2007 is when the farmers market was first talked about. Local merchant, Greg Lemieux contacted the County Extension office and asked how to get a market started in Burlington. Rose Skora, UW Extension Agriculture Educator and Carol Reed met with him and the vision started taking shape. The City Council unanimously voted to allow the market to take up residence at Wehmhoff Square and close Washington Street from Pine Street to Perkins Boulevard on a weekly basis from May through October.
Carol worked with local farmers who wanted to supply fresh produce, meats, apples and prepared goods to the Burlington area. Fox River State Bank and North Shore Bank helped promote the market with banners at the park. The Farmers’ Market had six vendors on opening day, the Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting ceremony, Mayor Bob Miller and many city officials were on hand. That first season the market grew to fifteen vendors. Corporate sponsors and vendors paid fees to support the market.
The 2009 season started with fifteen vendors and grew to twenty-five. A great mix of plants, fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese, eggs, honey, bakery and bread were available, along with some handcrafted items. Music in the gazebo every week was performed by local musicians, there were also vendors that prepared food for shoppers to enjoy dinner at the market. It became the meeting place for friends on Thursdays, new ones as well as old.
The all-new Veterans Terrace was the perfect venue to host our first Harvest of the Market Buffet. Chef Mike from Courtyard Catering and his staff prepared and served the meal, and by all accounts a great time was had by all. It was the first fundraiser for the market, and the goal of showcasing local foods and raising money was achieved. Proceeds were used to keep vendor fees as cost effective as possible.
At the end of the 2009 season the decision was made to become a “producer only” market. The market provides locally-grown produce and products that are sold by the people who grow or make them. In doing so the market provides access to fresh, tasty, seasonal products, and awareness of what is grown locally. The market also provides a community setting where neighbors, whether from the city or outlying areas, can celebrate our local heritage together and strengthen agriculture in SE Wisconsin.
2010, three years and growing strong, over twenty producers started the season and that number would swell to 35 at peak growing times. Our farmers brought more diversity to the variety of crops available at the market. Bonds with our sponsors, the City of Burlington and many of our local merchants also grew stronger. Not to mention the relationships with the market shoppers that grew week by week.
The Winter Market made its debut in 2010. The market producers rented a building in the Historic Loop of Burlington and gathered every Thursday evening in November and December to provide their offerings in the City of Burlington.