By Kris Rued-Clark
STRATFORD — With a passion for locally sourced, healthy food, Bryan and Stacey Weichelt founded the Stratford Farmers Market in 2012. Every week during the growing season farmers and gardeners gather in the parking lot of Stratford Homes to offer their produce and other value-added products.
Bryan, a project manager at National Farm Medicine Center, which is part of Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, and Stacey, the food service director for the Marshfield School District, live just north of Stratford.
“We felt there was a need. We don’t have produce to sell, but we wanted a farmers market for all of us in town,” said Bryan. He noted that local businesses help support the market and cover the operational costs.
“We encourage people to talk with the vendors. Learn where the food was grown. Be informed consumers. We want people to learn about and become connected to their food,” added Bryan. He said that most farmers are passionate about what they do and are willing to share information on how the food was grown and also offer tips for preparation.
Amanda Kolbeck offers organically grown heirloom varieties of vegetables. She lives in the Auburndale area but enjoys selling at the Stratford Farmers Market because Stratford is her hometown.
Kathy Busche, who serves as the market manager, has always grown large gardens. With six children to feed, gardening was essential. Now that only two are still at home, Busche continues to plant about ¾ acre, and she sells whatever extra she has.
“This is an important community service we do here. We have a lot of local people, both vendors and customers,” said Busche, who lives one mile west of Stratford. Her youngest daughter helps in the gardens and also makes glycerin soaps to sell at the farmers market.
Like Bryan, Busche expressed gratitude to Stratford Homes for providing the space.
“It’s wonderful they let us come in here and do this. We come after the workers leave. Some of them wait for us to set up and get groceries,” Busche said. Busche’s advice for gardeners was, “Come even if you only have a little bit to sell.” For buyers she advised, “Come early if you want the best selection. We’re here until 7 p.m. unless the vendors sell out.”
The new EBT program allows people to swipe their FoodShare cards and get tokens to spend on food. Farmers turn in the tokens at the end of market each week and receive cash. Amanda Ostrowski, a health educator with Marathon County Health Department, works with farmers markets throughout Marathon County.
“This is providing more access to local food. People really care about where their food comes from, and they also want to keep their dollars local,” said Ostrowski.
The Stratford Farmers Market is held every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m. through mid-September depending on the growing season. To sign up contact Bryan Weichelt, firstname.lastname@example.org or 715-506-0960, or simply show up on market day and register. There is no charge to be a vendor. For more information go to stratfordfarmersmarket.com or like their page, facebook.com/stratfordfarmersmarket.