Farmers' market fun

Duane “Zeke” Weiterman, owner of Weiterman Farm LLL in Lodi, talks with customers at last year’s Lodi farmers’ market on Friday, June 11, 2021. This was the third year Weiterman had a booth at the market. The organizers of the Lodi Valley Farmers’ Market stepped away in the fall of 2021, with the Chamber-run Spring Street Market to take its place starting Saturday.

This May would have been the 22nd year of the Lodi Valley Farmers’ Market, and though it has come to an end, Lodi is seeing the opening of a new market to fill the gap and grow according to the city’s changing needs.

Lodi Mayor Ann Groves Lloyd first learned of the change last August when Lodi Valley Farmers’ Market Director Gail Lamberty told her that it was getting to be too much and she would be stepping away from the market.

Groves Lloyd reached out to Melissa Card and Heidi LeHew Lodi and Lake Wisconsin Chamber of Commerce to suggest that there would likely be no farmers’ market in 2022, the city was interested in keeping a market in down town, and it could be an opportunity.

“And Heidi did the work from there,” said Groves Lloyd.

The Spring Street Market will be opening on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., bringing back some of the familiar Farmers’ Market vendors and also moving into new territory, according to Chamber Executive Director LeHew.

“When we first took it over, we worked with the planners from the previous farmer’s market,” said LeHew, “and then put out a survey to our community and overwhelmingly the community told us that they’re looking for a change in the market.”

The first change would be from Fridays to Saturday mornings, which also posed a challenge with some of the former vendors already booked on an ongoing basis with other markets on Saturdays. As organized by the Chamber of Commerce, the overall goal shifted accordingly toward broader economic development.

“We wanted farmers’ market stuff, of course, but also to offer, in addition, food vendors and coffee trucks and small business who want to participate–a huge variety,” said LeHew. “I started a giant spreadsheet and literally started logging anyone and everyone who we thought might be interested and we just started making phone calls. So anything from the local flower stands to home growers and gardeners, and just pushing the word out and getting people to come.”

LeHew did not have to start from the ground up, also working from the experience of organizing the Spring Street Market as part of Susie the Duck Day in 2021, which LeHew described as “a great success,” with vendors lining the better part of the block.

As the Spring Street Market is being reintroduced as a regular community event, the Chamber is offering potential vendors options of an annual pass for 18 Saturdays between May 28 and October 1 for $125 or daily drop-in rates of $15 per Saturday.

According to Groves Lloyd, the Spring Street Market also fits in a longer-term plan of increasing accessibility and amenities, attracting visitors to downtown Lodi.

“Spring Street has ended up being a mall for festivals, because it is easy to close down and we don’t have any businesses over there that are open on the weekends, so it’s a nice easy place,” said Groves Lloyd, pointing out that the city would be trying to address the issue of parking by making people more aware of the lot adjacent to the creek, behind City Hall. Further out, Groves Lloyd said that there would be likely projects to “spruce up” the area, as well as looking into options for public WIFI in the area.

“It’s frustrating for vendors when they come to town,” said Groves Lloyd, explaining the issue of inconsistent cell phone service in the area, “but also the Ice Age Trail comes through town right through our downtown and we want hikers to be able to access apps and map information and trail information.”

On Saturday morning, LeHew is not expecting to see many fresh vegetables in the market yet, it being early in the growing season, but is expecting a coffee truck, produce vendors, plants and flowers, farm fresh eggs, hand-made bead jewelry, and baked goods.

“We should have seven or eight people signed up for the very first one and then hopefully it will just keep growing from there,” said LeHew.