The Dane County Farmers' Market on the Capitol Square is a coveted vending location. Wannabes don’t have to wait as long as they would for Green Bay Packers season tickets, but two to four years is no joke.
David Nedveck, a current vendor, sees that as a good sign.
“People are that anxious to get on it that they’re willing to wait that long, so that’s a good thing,” he said. “We’re still popular.”
This year marks the 45th anniversary of the market, and Nedveck has been there for 34 of those years. Nedveck and his wife own the Flower Factory in Stoughton and make the trek to the square every Saturday in the summer.
Nedveck started the Flower Factory in 1982, selling cut flowers grown from one greenhouse. He met and married his wife at a plant nursery, and they started working the market together, eventually establishing their own nursery with 35 greenhouses.
Nedveck spoke to the Cap Times about his market memories, gave out market tips, and offered insight on how his love for ukuleles and plants intertwine.
How has your experience at the Farmers' Market changed over the years?
The market is a good way to discover what people want and don’t want. Every Saturday you bring something and if it goes home with you again, that’s probably not a good idea.
We started out as cut flower growers, that was my first endeavor. But people started asking us for those unusual cut flowers we were growing, perennials. So we started bringing plants for them to buy, and now that’s our primary focus; we only sell perennials.
But that’s the beauty of the Farmers' Market. You can start in one place and end in another.
I used to be a professional beekeeper and sell honey at the Farmers' Market. That’s an example of professional evolution too.
It’s a relatively cheap storefront that you rent by the week. So it gives you an opportunity to really get out there and see what the world wants and needs.
How was the first week of the market this year?
It was a good market and everyone was in a great mood. The first market is always like that: good to be back, like a family reunion in many respects.
I met a lot of people over those years, and we become friends. I know them so well that I can describe their gardens without ever having seen it, because I know what plants I’ve sold to them.
How did you get into the flower business? You started studying biochemistry at UW, right?
Biochemistry was my focus and actually, when I became a commercial beekeeper in California, I didn't know the flora there very well. If you’re going to be a beekeeper you more or less have to prospect in the countryside for the floral sources that are going to make the money.
So as a consequence I became very interested flowers, because that’s how I was making money, flowers through the nector, you see. So it was just a natural transition for me.
I’ve always been a gardener though. Even when I was younger I worked for my aunt for a dollar a day, plus a Coke and a hamburger. I thought that was pretty good pay.
But it was fun. And it still is, I have to say. I’m glad to get out and see the world every day, to see what’s changing. I think that’s the beauty of gardening. Even in winter, there’s the anticipation thinking of what’s going to come.
Can you walk me through a typical Farmers' Market Saturday?
Well, I get up at 3:30 a.m. and take a shower. I’m on the road by 4:30 and get to the Square by 5:00. And then it’s unloading the truck, which is usually loaded the day before in the evening.
So we get there and I unload it. I set up the market, I put my stands up and so we have to be set up and ready to sell by 6:00 a.m.
Then my regulars start to show up. The serious gardeners show up in the first two hours, because they know it’s less busy. I have four chairs there, so you can just sit and talk actually. You come up there early enough, we can have coffee and a donut together. Matter of fact, one fellow brings his donuts every morning.
Then it’s non-stop. Usually we start packing up at 1:30, because we close at 2 o'clock, so we have to be off the Square.
And then back home again and unload the truck, so now it’s probably about 3:00. ... And I'm close, there are people who are driving four hours to get home again.
This time of year we’re working 10 or 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I take a little time off in June and go to the world ukulele congress in Nashville, Indiana.
I saw online that you're involved in some ukulele groups.
Yeah, big time. I have a goodly number of them. Ukulele is big for me, and so is music general ... I have clarinets, saxophones, coronets, drums, violins, accordions, ukuleles, guitars. Saxophone, I’m learning.
(My father) collected pianos, and he had seven at one time, so I’m glad I didn't do that.
Is there any overlap between your musical and gardening lives?
Harmony, of all sorts. So you find harmony within music, try to find harmony within the garden. Either personally, or in the flowers, or in the sense of rhythm, the sense of colors, season.
What advice would you give to someone going to the Farmers' market?
Open your eyes to new experiences. There's a lot of vegetables that you may not be experienced with, the vendor will be able to discuss that with you, because this is something that they grew themselves. So they’ll know what you can and cannot do with that, what dishes, how to preserve it. The stand that’s right next to me, they do a lot of extensive canning and jellies and jams, and if they can’t put it in a jar, no one can.
If you're a serious shopper, get there early. Not that there’s not going to be anything left, but it gets pretty crowded by 11:00. And that’s fine too, we love to see the people. Actually, people watching is one of my favorite occupations.
I’ve always liked to watch people, maybe that’s why I’ve always like the Farmers' Market. It's like watching the cinema, the scene always changes, just flowing by and everyone goes in a counter-clockwise direction, always counter-clockwise.
What are you looking forward to with the market this year?
I have 105 new plants to offer. Every week I set up a different display, because I have different plants to work with. Because I was a florist at one time, made bouquets for a living, I’m pretty much making a giant bouquet with all these plants.
I’ve had compliments on that aspect of it. That's reward enough some days.