On The Ground — Dane County Farmers' Market

One of my favorite parts of going to UW-Madison was being a part of Madison's culture outside of the university. During the warmer months, everybody flocks to the capitol square to go to the Dane County Farmers' Market. It's the largest producer-only farmers' market in the country, and it is super fun. It's full of delicious food (don't miss Stella's hot & spicy cheese bread) and all sorts of interesting people. That's why I thought it would be exciting to chat with a few farmers' market-goers about their thoughts on the Midwest. Check out my convos with them and some photos of the farmer's market in action:

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1. ALISHA CHAREL

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My Midwest Is Showing: What's your favorite thing about the Midwest?

Alisha Charel: I really love the cities. Madison is amazing. The environment here is refreshing, because you can have the busy city life and you can get away from it — you can go to the lake and have a relaxing time. In Milwaukee, I love that it’s close to Lake Michigan and has a different vibe.

MMWIS: Are you from the Midwest originally?

AC: No, I'm originally from Nepal. I moved here when I was 12 or 13.

MMWIS: What were your first thoughts about the Midwest?

AC: Snow! Lots and lots of snow! And it’s very flat here compared to where I came from.

MMWIS: Since being here, how does your Midwest show?

AC: People here are so nice, and where I come from, people are like that too, so it was an easy transition. I’ve travelled to the coasts, and people are not the same there. I really like how respectful everyone here is and how eager everyone is to help each other. I hope that shows in my personality too.

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2. DEBI MCNUTT

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My Midwest Is Showing: Where are you from originally, and where do you live now?

Debi McNutt: A small town in central Wisconsin called Oxford — it’s a farming community. I now live in Olympia, Washington.

MMWIS: How are the two locations different, and how are they the same?

DM: We don’t have much snow in western Washington, so I miss our snowy winters. The people are a lot different too — here the people are family-based. In the Pacific Northwest, that’s not so. There are a lot of people who moved out there to get away from their families, so people have a different attitude about families there.

MMWIS: How does your Midwest show in Washington?

DM: Cheese. I love cheese. We order cheese from Wisconsin all the time, and family and friends send it to us. Some of our friends out there say they only have cheese when they come to our house. And I brought my Wisconsin pride out there with me — I’m still very proud of Wisconsin.

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3. ALEJANDRO ZUNIGA

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My Midwest Is Showing: Are you from the Midwest originally?

Alejandro Zuniga: I was born in California, but I’ve lived in Michigan and Wisconsin since I was in kindergarten. 

MMWIS: What’s your favorite thing about the Midwest?

AZ: College football and just the passion people have for their schools and their states. In addition to that, the people are friendly.

MMWIS: How would you say your Midwest shows?

AZ: I travel to the coasts quite a bit for work, and time moves a bit slower here, and people are friendlier. I hope that shows when I travel. I don’t want to come across like I'm in a rush. We care for the people around us and have an appreciation for the smaller things — I think that’s really important in life.

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4. LARRY HAAS, The Gourd Guy

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My Midwest Is Showing: Are you from Wisconsin?

Larry Haas: Yes, I’ve lived here my whole life. 

MMWIS: What are your thoughts on the Midwest?

LH: Oh, Midwest is the best. I was born and raised here. I moved out to Salt Lake for about three years when I was 18 or 19, but there’s nothing better than the Midwest. Farming, the people — it gets super cold in the wintertime, and that keeps the bad people away.

MMWIS: How does your Midwest show?

LH: I’m naturally an open book. Any person that’s an open book belongs in the Midwest. Everybody accepts you here, it seems.

MMWIS: Tell me about your business.

LH: Well, I’ve been here about 24 years. Love gourds — well, it’s a love/hate thing like any job. Hard product to grow — it’s a southern crop so it looks good up here at my stand, but I throw a lot of my products down because they don’t mature. But I love it — I do vegetables on the side. It’s a lot of work. You try to live humble. I do other jobs — I do carpentry work. You know, I enjoy coming up here and talking to the people, and if I can sell carrots and gourds every week, I’m happy.

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5. MELANIE, CATIE, & LULU

 Melanie, Catie, and Lulu (plus Harry and Tyson), from left to right

Melanie, Catie, and Lulu (plus Harry and Tyson), from left to right

My Midwest Is Showing: What is your favorite thing about the Midwest?

Catie: I love how nice everyone is, and they’re so interested in you, always asking you questions. 

MMWIS: How does the Midwest compare to France, where you live now?

Catie: It’s literally a night and day difference. The culture is just really different — the people in France are nice, but not as conversational, not as smiley.

MMWIS: What are you doing here in Wisconsin?

Catie: I’m just visiting! Seeing Melanie and Lulu.

MMWIS: Are you from the Midwest?

Melanie: I am. I’m from Minnesota, graduated from UW-Madison in 2011, and I live in Chicago now. The Midwest is home to me. 

MMWIS: How does your Midwest show?

Melanie: I think when people meet me in interviews or in a social setting, they automatically think, “Wow, you’re so nice." Until they realize that I’m really sassy.

MMWIS: And are you from the Midwest?

Lulu: I’m from Nigeria — I’ve lived in Florida, Minnesota, now I live in Wisconsin.

MMWIS: What are your thoughts on the Midwest?

Lulu: The people are just so nice. People are always willing to help you or get to know you. And even from traveling, I’ve realized that Midwest people are really the nicest people in the world. 

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