Music Has Taken Root at the Farm Market

By / Photography By Melissa D. Corbin & | January 14, 2017
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Crowds in Downtown Appleton are certain to swell this summer with the farmers market and the Mile of Music.
Crowds in Downtown Appleton are certain to swell this summer with the farmers market and the Mile of Music.


When Djuanna Hugdahl began working with the Downtown Appleton Farm Market 11 years ago, she didn’t know that brussels sprouts grew on a stalk.

“I learned that at the farmers market,” she winks. “When I first started out, I couldn’t imagine being here every Saturday, and now I can’t imagine not being there every Saturday.” Hugdahl is the Event & Planning Coordinator for Appleton Downtown Inc. (ADI).

ADI is a non-profit community coalition dedicated to an economically strong, safe, attractive and exciting downtown. Sporting a pin that reads “Appleton Is One Great Place” she points to the more than 150 vendors that line a four-block downtown stretch showcasing the best in Wisconsin grown and produced goods. The market also has provided over $20,000 in local food to those who need it most through the USDA-certified SNAP program.

“Each farmer is their own little business and each of them do business differently,” explains Hugdahl. The endearing part of this business model is that the farmers market has evolved over the years as a social gathering and important part of the community. It’s a model that has taken hold throughout Northeastern Wisconsin (and the country) with many communities staging its own weekly market.

The food trucks waft aromas of multicultural cuisines in Houdini Plaza. The bounty of organic produce can only be described as curative eye candy. Oren Jakobson of Field Notes Farms and I chat about the path of living well that a young farmer chooses. Maria Davis of Nami Moon Farms assures me that her free-range, frozen turkey carry-on will pass TSA inspection for my trip back to Tennessee.

I can’t help myself. The rainbow of handcrafted Dalla Terra Pasta will simply have to fit in my checked bag. I make note of the epic kitchen therapy that will ensue upon my Tennessee homecoming. Still, it’s the musings of a songstress down the way that beckons my attention.

Paridot band
market produce
The Music Mission’s founder Lean Whitthuhn
Photo 1: Paridot. Contributed photo.
Photo 2: Market produce. Photo by Carol Toepke/Collections by Carol.
Photo 3: The Music Mission’s founder Lean Whitthuhn.

The crowd gathers around The Music Mission’s teen-aged founder and President-in-Training Leah Whitthuhn. Her non-profit focuses on the distribution of purchased or donated musical instruments to children who do not have access to them. Whitthuhn founded the organization while in high school and began playing at the market last summer.

“I’d set up my small booth with a tip jar at 8:00 in the morning and play until about noon. Each time I performed I made at least $100, which was fantastic to help The Music Mission. All the money I raised was able to help us purchase a violin for a student, and make the necessary repairs for others. It also helped me get exposure to perform at other venues.” The budding entrepreneur explains that the Downtown Appleton Farm Market was a huge stepping stone and has helped her accomplish such a big task.

Hillary Reynolds can relate. She also grew up in Appleton among a family full of musicians. She was asked to play at the market four summers ago. She says that it’s the most electrifying market she’s ever experienced.

“I have this deep need to connect with people,” Reynolds continues. “It levels humanity a little bit.” On a couple of Saturdays during the summer she’ll load up her guitar and other musical necessities into a garden wagon, head into the market and instantly connect with thousands of folks at once.

“It ’s really a spectacle,” she smiles. A lot of her love for music comes from her dad, who you might find playing with Hillary from time to time.

These days, you can catch Reynolds on the road with her band mates Trevor Jarvis and Marton Bisits who make up the folk-pop trio with intent, Peridot.

Likewise, Kyle Megna is no stranger to the farmers market music scene. “They support natural and organic things. They love and respect original things. Why? Because I’ve gotten multiple gigs because of the market. It’s crazy how you can network at the farmers market.”

His band, Kyle Megna and The Monsoons, along with Peridot and The Music Mission will be at this year’s Mile of Music Festival happening August 4-7. National recording artist, singer-songwriter and Appleton native Cory Chisel has collaborated with the festival’s cofounder Dave Willems for a remarkable music and community experience. Mile 4 offers 800 live performances, 200 artists and 70 venues all on one great Mile of Music! Go to for festival details.

“When I first started out, I couldn’t imagine being here every Saturday, and now I can’t imagine not  being there every Saturday.”
— Djuanna Hugdahl, Appleton Downtown Inc.

Celebrating music and farmers, there will be a “Learning and Education Week” with programming in Houdini Plaza 8 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6th. Also be on the lookout this summer for a musical petting zoo that the market has partnered with the Fox Valley Symphony to host. Check the Downtown Appleton Farm Market Facebook page for updated happenings.

What started out as a way for farmers to sell direct to the consumer, the American farmers market has become much more. Indeed, it is the social event of the week for many. A recent Farmers Market Coalition study showed that shoppers have more than three times the social and informational encounters at farmer markets than they do at national chain supermarkets.

It’s no surprise that such encounters are how many folks learn where their food comes from. The Coalition also reports that growers selling locally create 13 full-time jobs per $1 million in revenue earned. What’s more, for every $100 spent at a farmers market, $62 stays in the local economy while $99 stays in the state. Now, that’s something to sing about!


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