What to Look For at Spring Farmers Markets

Get a jump start on the freshest produce and support local growers at a farmers market.

RELATED: YOUR FARMERS MARKET GUIDE

When green-minded shoppers peruse the aisles of the West Allis Farmers Market this month (opening day is Saturday, May 1), they will be reminded that summer isn’t far off. Rhubarb, asparagus and spinach are among the first types of produce available. Later, more homegrown Wisconsin products will roll in – radishes, peas and various kinds of greens.

What some folks don’t know about the market, vendor Jerry Wagner says, is that it’s a gem of a source for hanging baskets and fresh herbs, with higher quality than what you can buy in stores. Wagner, whose Jerry’s Produce business is based in New Berlin, carries over 180 varieties of perennials (cone flowers, butter y bushes, phlox, to name a few).

He’s also known for his baskets of strawberry plants, which he hopes to have available at the market early this month until they sell out. And they will sell out. “They produce sweet, juicy strawberries that grow all season,” he says. And they don’t require transplanting: “It’s like growing impatiens in a hanging basket.”

   

Just as last year, this season’s market will follow the health and safety guidelines outlined by the West Allis Health Department and the CDC, says Caitlyn White, West Allis tourism and event coordinator. The 2020 season ended up being an exceptional year for Wagner and other market vendors. “People were at home sitting in their houses going, ‘I have disposable income. Why not add some greenery to my yard?’ Plants-wise, it turned into the new toilet paper,” says Wagner, adding that suppliers predict another busy market season this year.

If you’re going to the market for a specific item, plan to arrive early. Short- lived seasonal goods like strawberries and asparagus sell out quickly. And check the West Allis market Facebook page (facebook.com/westallisfarmersmarket) to learn more about what to find each week.

Whatever your shopping goals, Stallis’ 102-year-old foodie destination is an experience that celebrates Wisconsin – one you can only find at a farmers market.

Four Great Markets Early in the Season

1. West Allis Farmers Market

6501 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS

Offering seasonal, local produce, plants and flowers, fresh meat and eggs, and prepared foods

May 1-Nov. 27 (Sat 1-6 p.m., Tues and Thurs noon-6 p.m.)

2. Fondy Farmers Market

2200 W. FOND DU LAC AVE. 

Celebrating fresh local produce and food

May 8-June 19 (Sat 9 a.m.- noon); June 26-Oct. 31 (Sat 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun, Tues and Thurs 9 a.m.-2 p.m.); Nov. 6-20 (Sat 9 a.m.-2 p.m.)

3. Brookfield Farmers Market

BROOKFIELD CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL, 16900 W. GEBHARDT RD., BROOKFIELD

A mix of fresh produce and plants, meats and cheeses, baked goods, arts and crafts

May 1-Oct. 30 (Sat 7:30 a.m.-noon)

4. New Berlin Farmers Market

15055 W. NATIONAL AVE.

Locally grown and produced goods including flowers, fresh produce, bakery and salsa

May 1-Oct. 30 (Sat 8 a.m.-noon)


 

This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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Ann Christenson has covered dining for Milwaukee Magazine since 1997. She was raised on a diet of casseroles that started with a pound of ground beef and a can of Campbell's soup. Feel free to share any casserole recipes with her.