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Wednesday, January 28, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 25.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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Farmers' market slated for Brittingham Park
Customers can use food assistance cards to purchase produce
Madison police officer Kim Alan was instrumental in helping the Brittingham Park Farmers' Market get started.
Credit:Madison Parks Division, Madison Police Department

Ask for information about the new farmers' market at Brittingham Park and chances are you'll be told there is one person you need to talk to: Kim Alan, the neighborhood police officer for the Triangle neighborhood. Alan, however, credits area residents themselves for coming up with the idea.

"It's something they've said they've wanted for a long time," says Alan, who was a patrol officer before landing the community policing job nine months ago. "I wouldn't have seen the need for the market" so quickly, she adds.

Alan, however, was instrumental in making the market a reality. Various approvals and permits were needed from city panels, including the parks commission, which is expected this week to give final approval to the project. The Brittingham Park Farmers' Market is the only local market located in a city park.

"First we had to figure out whether there was a deed restriction for the park," says Alan. There wasn't.

The Brittingham Park Farmers' Market is scheduled to debut June 3 and run through Sept. 23. It will be held every Tuesday 3-6 p.m. in the park pavilion located just off the shores of Monona Bay.

Alan says residents who live along West Washington Avenue, including the low-income housing operated by Bayview Foundation, told her they would like a closer option for fresh produce than the Dane County market on the Capitol Square.

"Some use wheelchairs or have walking challenges, and they feel uncomfortable at the market, which has gotten so popular and crowded," says Alan.

The Common Council on March 19 approved a $6,250 grant from the city's Food Policy Council to Bayview Foundation to help establish, promote and provide basic supplies for the market. And earlier this month the USDA approved the market as a vendor site, which means residents can use their SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) benefits to purchase produce.

"That is great news," says Mark Woulf, who oversees food and alcohol policy issues for the city. "It's one thing to get a farmers' market for a neighborhood -- it's important for providing local, healthy food. But the easiest way to make sure it's affordable is to make sure it will accept SNAP."

Woulf hopes to eventually bring the MadMarket Double Dollars program to Brittingham. Funded last year by local health providers, the program offered a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $30, for SNAP users at four markets.

Five vendors are already on board for the Brittingham market: Blia Vang and Nhia Bee Xiong, both of whom are from Sun Prairie; Elderberry Farms (Madison), Turnstone Farm (Waterloo) and Riverdale Ridge (Muscoda).

The market, says Woulf, will be a "great addition to the neighborhood. We expect greater, more diverse use of the park."

Bringing more residents and activities to the park has been a longtime goal of the city and police department. The pavilion at one time was a popular gathering place for homeless individuals, and the use of alcohol became a problem. Nearby residents tended to stay away.

But efforts began in the last few years to revitalize the park. Police stepped up their presence, and alcohol was banned. In 2013 a community garden launched, and Brittingham Boats, which rents canoes and other watercraft, opened down the shore at a long-abandoned park shelter.

Alan says the farmers' market is another step in the park's makeover.

"Monona Bay frontage is just stunning," says Alan. "We want to make sure the park stays well used and is a happy place for families to be."

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