J's Veggie Patch is responsible for small mountains of fresh vegetables, from broccoli and cucumbers to kohlrabi and herb plants. Founded in 1853, the seventh generation family farm near Montello is now operated by Sarah and Paul McDowell, and has been a vendor at the Dane County Farmers' Market for two decades. They also set up shop at the Portage Farmers' Market and the Badgerland Produce Co-op Auction.
Paul McDowell spoke to The Daily Page about J's Veggie Patch and the market.
The Daily Page: How did you become a farmers' market vendor?
Due to the financial difficulties that so many farmers experienced in the '80s, we diversified into vegetable production. This was in our blood so to say, as Juanita's father had been a truck farmer for over 50 years. This was a natural way to go for us. We started selling on the Square in 1989, and we love the diversity of the growers, the variety of fresh products and the fantastic clientele that support the best farmers' market in America.
What else do you offer through the summer season?
Eggplant, sweet corn and onions.
What's your most popular product?
Herb plants in the spring and eggplant in the summer.
What's your most remarked upon offering?
Organic herb plugs, sold without the plastic containers. So many people appreciate the fact that we are doing a small part to be good stewards of the land.
What's your favorite product elsewhere at the market?
Cheesecake, old-fashioned donuts, Highland beef meat sticks and fresh pasta.
What's your pre-packaged, supermarket-shelved guilty pleasure?
Dark chocolate and taco fixin's.
If you were to make a meal incorporating your products, what would you make?
The recipe is:
Fresh vine-ripened tomato (preferably Heirloom), cut into 1/2" slices
Fresh Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2" slices
Fresh large leaf Italian basil, coarsely chopped
High-quality extra virgin olive oil
Layer tomato and cheese slices alternately. Sprinkle basil on top and finish with drizzled extra virgin olive oil.