More Than a Market

​Fresh green beans and bell peppers cover  tables at the Stevens Point farmers market. Photos by Kaitlyn Luckow.

​Fresh green beans and bell peppers cover
tables at the Stevens Point farmers market.
Photos by Kaitlyn Luckow.

farmers-2-color-kaitlyn-luckowFor the past 160 years, the square in downtown Stevens Point has served as the site for the longest-running farmers market in the State of Wisconsin every Monday and Saturday.

The square is lined with tents and tables, each presenting the season’s crop. Anything from tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, cabbage, to a plethora of other crops can be found being sold by vendors. Community members casually walk around the square with their reusable bags, interacting with the vendors and friends or enjoying a fresh eggroll from the fryer.
Five months out of the year, local farmers and businesses have the unique opportunity to sell their products to the local community to earn a living. Donated to the city of Stevens Point in 1847, the two-square-block space of the Mathias Mitchell Public Square has been a staple in continuing a long and cherished way of life. Dan Mielke, the facilitator of the market, is deeply ingrained in the culture of the farmer’s market.“My family has been selling here since 1860. I am the second-longest selling vendor and have served on the board for the last 16 years. Needless to say, this is a big tradition,” Mielke said.

Mielke’s parents and grandparents were both active in the market, and he is continuing that tradition today by running a booth with his wife, selling fresh organic produce and homemade bakery.

On any given Saturday, Mielke can be seen walking from booth to booth talking to vendors and locals. He starts baking in the afternoon on Friday to get ready for the next day and is not able to sleep until the market is over on Saturday, but he cannot say enough about the tradition and culture of the market.

“We’re part of one of the oldest ethnic traditions and have built a community. I’ve seen generations come and go. It’s addictive,” Mielke said.

Mielke is not the only vendor who feels the same way. Kurt Caroline has sold produce at the market for the past eight years and has made many close friends in doing so.

“I enjoy talking with people, and this is a place for the community to come gather and look around. Some people don’t even buy anything and come just to meet people,” Caroline said.

It is obvious that the vendors are dedicated to their products, but the community also likes the concept of the market and how personable and accessible it has become compared to the larger chain grocery stores. For Molly Frisch, a UWSP student, having the opportunity to explore different foods and supporting the community is what makes the market fun.

“The thing about the farmers market is that you feel more of a connection with the food you buy, and it’s important to have a relationship with the people you buy the food from,” Frisch said. “You know where it comes from, and you know who grows it. You don’t get that in a grocery store. It’s like a symbiotic relationship.”

Frisch also gave advice about what to do when you go to the market. Bringing a reusable bag to carry your purchases is one of the most important things. If something catches your eye, she also made the suggestion of interacting with the produce, as well as asking the vendor questions about how to prepare it and what it can be used with. Above anything else, she mentioned that she always has a basic concept of what she wants to buy.

“I wander. I have an idea of what I want to get. When I get there, I like to see what everyone has, and once I walk through I start from the beginning and do it all over again,” Frisch said. “The farmers market is authentic, the freshness is unparalleled and it tastes so much better than the grocery store.”

Aaron Krish

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