Summer is definitively underway and temperatures continue to rise. The allure of A/C grows with every day under a bright sun and blue skies, but you know it’s too early in the summer to commit to a life indoors. Any surrender to introverted impulses now will only get more extreme in the upcoming months, blossoming into a perpetual state of isolation once the trees along the Fox River are painted with the colors of fall. You can’t spend every day at the beach (although if that’s what you’re trying to do, check out some tips here), so you begin seeking out events that’ll get you outdoors.
Two words: farmers markets.
I’ll be the first to admit that my views of farmers markets have been distorted in the past few years, falling prey to urban chic and photos with Earlybird and Lo-Fi filters. You might find yourself wondering, am I cool enough to pull off the farmers market vibe? As with most Instagram filters, appearances are deceiving and farmers markets really haven’t changed in the past few years. Here’s a case for leaving your indoor oasis and checking out the farmers markets in the Fox Cities.
If you’re anything like me, the idea of going to the farmers market results in an inner conflict:
Hi! I’m your self-conscious thoughts and worries and I have some thoughts about farmers markets!
Oh, you’re thinking about going to farmers markets, are you? You mean the things where giant crowds collect in a single street and mill around for a few hours? That sounds like the perfect thing for an introvert! Even better, everything is out in the open so everyone can give you dirty looks when you drop the armful of vegetables you just bought. It doesn’t matter how much you just paid for those ears of corn. You dropped them and now they’re tainted by your shame. Time to go back to the car. Okay, maybe you’ll manage not to drop anything you bought. There are also tons of friendly vendors who are willing to say hi and chat for a while! Are you sure a farmers market is the right thing for you?
Hi! I’m your voice of reason and your rational thoughts!
Okay, let’s pause for a second. Listening to self-conscious thoughts and paying attention to worries is important in small doses (if you don’t, this can make you a little arrogant or careless), but they shouldn’t be the predominant voice in your head when you’re thinking about whether or not to go to some of the cool events in the area. Sure, the farmers markets have a lot of people and many of them are willing to talk to you. But nobody is expecting you to talk their ear off and it’s not strange to say hi without saying much else. If that feels awkward for you, ask the vendor about what they’re selling! Chances are they’re passionate about it or at the very least moderately invested in it. Going to the farmers market will be a great way to enjoy being outside without exercising. Otherwise you’ll have to try taking up running again and we both know how that ended last time.
The back-and-forth might have been a little much, but sometimes the conflict between introverted urges and a genuine desire to try new things can play out like an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other. Ultimately, going to the farmers markets in the Fox Cities is good for you and good for the community. The Fox Cities have some great markets (more on that in a bit) and buying local supports Fox Cities businesses and farmers. Buying produce at the market cuts down on the environmental impact of your eating habits (your food doesn’t have to be shipped in from across the country), and it might just help you eat healthier than you normally do. Pizza is all well and good, but it shouldn’t make up more than half of your meals at most. To be honest, it probably shouldn’t go above 10 percent, but that’s an issue for another day. I’ll list some of the local farmers markets at the end of the post, but here are some things you can do to make your trip a little easier:
Decide how much you’re going to spend before you get to the market.
It’s hard to gauge how much you might spend at the farmers market, but it’s easy to go overboard when you’re wandering around the market for hours. This is great for vendors, but it’s not what your wallet needs. Try to set a range for yourself so you can make your purchases really count. Having a limit will also give you a better idea of what you might be looking to buy.
Figure out what you’re interested in buying.
The farmers markets in the Fox Cities have so many great styles of food and art that a trip to the market can be a little intimidating for first time visitors. If you know what you’re looking for, you won’t find yourself aimlessly wandering through the middle of the street with nothing but sweat in your palms. This is also a great way to reduce your food waste; if you find recipes you’re willing to try and then buy the ingredients you need, there’s a better chance you won’t leave the food in the back of the pantry until it goes bad.
Make a game plan.
This is easier than it seems. For other events (like Mile of Music- stay tuned for that post later this summer), you might need a pretty serious idea of what you’re going to do so you don’t miss anything. Fortunately, farmers markets are more laid back and you’ll have a little more time to improvise if need be. When you get to the market, feel free to take a lap and get a feel for what the market has to offer. Once you’ve seen most of the vendors, then you can loop back around and check out your favorites. Feel free to break away from the flow of pedestrian traffic and remember to enjoy the market at your own pace.
Alright, you’re ready to go, but where are the markets closest to you? There are tons of farmers markets in the area, but here are just a few:
The Appleton farmers market is located downtown along College Avenue, running on Saturdays from 8am-12:30pm. (Pro tip: arrive early, like 7:30ish, to beat the crowds and the sun. Most vendors are set up by then and you get first pick of their produce.) Kaukana has a market of their own, situated in the parking lot on the corner of Second Street and Highway 55. It runs on Saturdays from 7:30am-12pm. Little Chute and Menasha round out the immediate Fox Cities area, with Little Chute’s market running on Thursdays from 3-7pm in Windmill Plaza. Menasha’s market runs on Thursdays as well and is open from 2-6pm at 140 Main Street. Hibah did a great job of listing all of the farmers markets in the area in our June issue.
There you have it! Hopefully this makes your farmers market experience a little more enjoyable. June is more than halfway through and I’ll be covering 4th of July tips next week so be sure to check back soon!