Rock County Farmers Market expands operation
IF YOU GO
What: Rock County Farmers Market and Rock County Flea Market
Where: Highway 11 at Nature’s Touch Garden Center, 5013 W. Highway 11.
When: Flea market open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays from May 14 through Oct. 29. Farmers market open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sundays from May 15 through Oct. 30.
To learn more: Call (608) 314-6721 or visit rockcountyfarmersmarket.com.
JANESVILLE The upstart Rock County Farmers Market on Highway 11 west of Janesville is expanding this year to include Saturday flea markets.
The farmers market, which kicks off its second year this weekend, started as a Sunday market. But owner Todd Elrod said burgeoning interest from flea market vendors last year prompted a plan this year to run a split operation, with a flea market on Saturdays and Sundays dedicated purely to a farmers market.
“We had enough space, but we decided we didn’t want a mixed market,” Elrod said. “We wanted to keep the farmers market separate.”
Elrod said some food vendors could spill over to the flea market on Saturdays, but the Sunday farmers market will offer only locally produced fruits and vegetables, baked and handmade goods and artwork.
“Sundays will just be for stuff that you grow, bake or make,” said Elrod.
Elrod said flea market vendors at last year’s market sold items as varied as antiques, cosmetics and imported ceramics.
He said vendors’ offerings this year should be just as diverse, with few planned restrictions.
“As long as the vendors are selling items that are legal, ethical and not offensive,” Elrod said.
Elrod started the Rock County Farmers Market on Sundays last year in the parking area of his own business, Nature’s Touch Garden Center, 5013 W. Highway 11, after the Saturday-morning Janesville Farmers Market in downtown Janesville began limiting new vendors to protect existing vendors.
Elrod, who had wanted sell plants at the Janesville Farmers Market, was one of the vendors turned away. Others turned away in Janesville also joined the new market. It grew last year to average about 50 vendors each weekend, Elrod said.
The market last year offered everything from fruits and vegetables to cheeses and even egg rolls, according to Gazette reports.
This year, the Sunday farmers market already has about 70 vendors signed up, and the Saturday flea market initially will have about 15 vendors, Elrod said.
Organizers said the market this year will have a covered pavilion, expanded space for parking and vendor setup and electricity for vendors.
Vendor registration remains open, said Caroline Robb, market manager.
“We want everyone who wants to come to be able to come. We don’t want to turn anybody away for a lack of space to pull in,” Robb said.
Elrod said his garden center has been flooded with customer calls about this year’s Rock County Farmers Market.
“On Mother’s Day, we had 39 calls for the garden center. But the same day, 91 people called asking questions about the farmers market. Interest is really growing,” he said.
Despite its expansion this year, Elrod said the market will remain privately owned and funded, and he intends to continue operating it without a board of directors.