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Monday, July 14, 2008

Experiencing Freshness

I like to visit Madison's Dane County Farmer's Market as often as time permits. During the school year, this is usually less often than not given my part-time work schedule that requires me to work many Saturdays and I often need those precious hours to run errands and get a start on my homework and studying for the weekend.

The summer, however, is another story. Long summer days and a somewhat freer study schedule provide me with the opportunity to frequent the farmer's market on a more regular basis. And these regular trips allow us to count on the market to supply our week's worth of delicious produce, meat, Saturday morning snacks (read: breakfast), and even the occasional splurge, such as a bouquet of flowers or a delicious pie. Even more important, the experience of visiting Madison's farmer's market is one to be treasured: one walks in pace with the crowds counter-clockwise around Wisconsin's impressive state capitol, a majestic granite structure with a dome topping over 200 feet in height, while absorbing the fresh offerings in each booth and the picture of Madison's unique population that presents itself each Saturday morning.

State Capitol

As I walk the capitol square peering into each booth and snacking on my cheese curds, my eye is always drawn to large collections of fresh fruits and vegetables. Something strikes me about the overwhelming nature of an amount of produce that I cannot fathom being consumed at one time or even cultivated from the earth. As I am stunned by the volume, color, and vibrance of these fruits and vegetables, I always fail to neglect the hard work of those who brought this produce to the market, often the same folks that were up early to set up their booth and provide me with tasty morsels for the week.

Plentifully RedPick your OnionBaby Reds

The market provides many other wonderful items to take home. When I have my camera, my favorites are always the fresh flowers, so colorful and diverse from booth to booth. Additionally, I always find myself susceptible to the sweet treats, whether for a quick snack as I walk or for a more substantial and lasting dessert option at home. The market on Independence Day weekend featured perhaps the summer's last beautiful plants and flowers, including the red gem seen below, as well as an Amish booth which I can always count to have piles of delicious cookies and mini pies for sale.

Badger Red?

Mini PiesHodgepodge Cookies

Perhaps my most favorite moment of the market is not celebrating the goodies we bring home, but enjoying the crowds and personalities that show up to entertain and draw attention (and coins and bills as well in some cases) to themselves. Several characters dot the market landscape, including the scruffy gentlemen below adorned with old-fashioned washboard and steel guitar.

VintageCasual Strumming

And who could forget The Raging Grannies, a group of elderly women that emphasize their age through stereotypical dress while singing about social and political issues salient and especially important in this election year. I love the message and method with which they deliver it. One even uses a wooden spoon to conduct the group!
Patriotism Aged Well

Lastly, the most recent market I attended featured street artists at the end of State Street, carefully perfecting their craft as crowds circled the square. Both gentleman worked in the medium of sidewalk chalk, creating their versions of the same woman mirrored on the same ground that supports pedestrians, government vehicles, and public transportation daily. I have seen sidewalk art in progress several times before, often by student artists seeking practice, and some extra income, outside of the studio and classroom. Nevertheless, these really are temporary works of art, carefully perfected knowing it will never be preserved or sold to be placed above one's mantle. Despite this, I was taken aback by the recent art I saw coming together at the market. I've attempted to capture these gentleman in the progress of sketching these ladies, and hope you enjoy the vibrant, colorful, detailed, and nuanced art that was created on July 5, 2008, and has since been lost except in the mind's of those present and in the appreciative photos from those like me.

A Sidewalk Artist's Tools

Hand Sketched

Gorgeous Sidewalk Portrait

I will continue to visit the Madison Farmer's Market as often as I can for the fresh produce and goodies. But more importantly, I will stay devoted to this market for the freshness of social interaction and personalities with whom I will come into contact as I browse the booths. I hope to be as satisfied and entertained as I was on the market on Independence Day weekend.

Patriotic Market

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