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Tosa Farmers Market closes by celebrating harvest

Drought hurt, but season still deemed successful

Nora Hoppe of Wauwatosa walks through the Tosa Farmers Market on Saturday. Nora was at the market with her father, August Hoppe, who is not pictured.

Nora Hoppe of Wauwatosa walks through the Tosa Farmers Market on Saturday. Nora was at the market with her father, August Hoppe, who is not pictured. Photo By Peter Zuzga

Oct. 17, 2012

The farmers market season is over for Wauwatosa, marking the end of summer as poignantly as falling leaves and dropping temperatures.

The second-annual Farmer's Feast was the exclamation point on the end of the market season. It took place at Blue's Egg and allowed market-goers one last chance to mingle with the Tosa Farmers Market's farmers.

For $25 per ticket, more than 100 attendees enjoyed a menu created using farmers market food and specially prepared by Blue's Egg chefs. All of the proceeds from the fundraiser went to cover the farmers market's administrative costs. There also was a raffle of items created by local artists and donated by local groups including the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, the Milwaukee Art Museum and more.

Although this is the third season for the Tosa Farmers Market, it is the second annual Farmer's Feast. The first took place at Blue's Egg as well, with a total of 60 people in attendance.

Dan Sidner, co-owner of Blue's Egg and Maxie's Southern Comfort, approached Becca Kitelinger, the farmers market planner, to host both fundraisers.

Helping farmers markets is not new to Sidner. He partnered with farmers markets in Colorado, where he owned a restaurant and co-owned a small farm.

Blue's Egg chefs had a hearty burden to create the menu for 100 attendees on a deadline. They were still receiving ingredients on the day of the event. Ingredients ranged from the standard fall squash to bison tongues to full chickens.

Joe Muench, executive chef and co-owner of Blue's Egg and Maxie's Southern Comfort put in an 11-hour day preparing the menu, which he rewrote four times.

"What helps is the change of season because you know what they're going to bring in and you can use unique ingredients," Muench said. "You can use tongues and whole chickens. I think that was the fun of it. As a chef, you always want to be creative. It wasn't a chore."

Future plans

The farmers market, held in the Hart's Mill parking lot in the Village, will be in hibernation for the winter, going into strategic-planning mode for next season.

The market has partnered with the Ronald McDonald House to begin laying the groundwork for potentially accepting payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an aid program that helps low-income people purchase food.

The strategic planning hasn't started yet, but will see discussions on the SNAP program. The market still needs to develop funding and training to put the SNAP program to use.

"We really want to promote our market as a program that people can go down and utilize," Kitelinger said. "I think the opportunity of all farmers markets is to be a resource for the community."

Challenges faced

The market, like most in Wisconsin, felt the pinch of the summer drought. Some of the vendors couldn't attend the markets because they were busy watering their crops or because they didn't have enough crops to bring.

Although the drought had adverse effects in the amount of food farmers could sell, the market continues to grow each year, Kitelinger said, citing the Wauwatosa community's support as the main reason why the market was able to survive the hard summer.

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