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New In Madison: A Virtual Farmers’ Market

Whether you”re new to Madison, seeking vegetarian recipes or looking for produce that”s in season, there”s a web site made for you. Just type and you”ll find all you need to know about that seasonal ritual, the Dane County Farmers” Market. You can take a tour, take a quiz, find a new recipe or find your favorite vendor.

The Dane County Farmers” Market and the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences developed the site to teach people about buying food from local sources. Agricultural journalism professor Suzanne Pingree”s research team found out what customers wanted to know. Students interviewed vendors and wrote the text, and graduate student Victoria Jagar developed the web site. John Hendrickson, an outreach specialist for the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, contributed much of the information about farming.

For those who haven”t been to the market, the web site presents a virtual tour. A general information section offers links to a calendar of events and a map of downtown. (Maps of the market itself weren”t possible, as some vendors only sell on a temporary basis and others come in to take their places.)

Click on seasonal produce to find facts about the latest fruits and vegetables with links to profiles of vendors and a “Test Your Vegetable I.Q.” quiz. Click again and you”ll find recipes from growers, local chefs and good cooks. Once you try a recipe, you can send in your feedback.

Other links will take you to food preservation techniques. You can even click on “blanch” if you don”t know what it means. Another link will take you directly to the University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension”s home page.

But the site isn”t just a compendium of food tips. It also tries to persuade people to buy more than coffee and pastries. A “Making the Connection” quiz offers some tough questions about food costs, food processing and food distribution. For instance, do you know how far, on average, foods travel to get to your plate? Or how many people handle food before it gets to the supermarket?

Local chefs know. Madison restaurants ranging from Bluephie”s to the Blue Marlin find that the market offers fresh ingredients they can”t get anywhere else Names of restaurants that frequent the farmers” market are just part of an extensive resource list. Best of all, like any other link, you don”t have to go through the entire web site to find the resources. So once you”ve used the site to see what”s new, you can come back to find out how to store the 15 spaghetti squash you just bought.