How can you contribute to improving the lives of others during the pandemic?

This week, Julia Smith of Blend Marketing reveals how she’s found new ways to interact with her close-knit team. And although the Dane County Farmers’ Market may be closed, Sarah Elliott explains how we can support local producers and still enjoy fresh food and other goods.

Julia Smith, Account Manager, Blend Marketing

Staying Connected to My Co-Workers 

Working from home has presented challenges in maintaining connections with my co-workers and keeping things fun. We are a tight-knit bunch, often eating lunch together daily, and sharing music and internet stories via Slack. We also walk the stairs together and grab lunch at the grocery store.

It’s been a big change being away from them, so we have come up with some new ways to stay connected.

  1. Personal check-ins. I connect with my colleagues regularly to see how they’re doing, chatting via phone calls or Slack. The pandemic’s been affecting everyone in one way or another; some are homeschooling children while working, while others are living alone and feeling lonelier. I think it’s important that they know I am here for them.
  2. Added #remotelife to our slack channel to share the funny, weird, and mundane aspects of working at home. It turns out I have a co-worker who dresses up her cats!
  3. Virtual lunch hour. This has been an excellent way to hear how everyone is doing.
  4. Team building. We did a virtual team-building exercise (with Lake Geneva Team Building Adventures). It provided new opportunities to learn about each other, including that many of us would rather be stuck in a dark room than in an elevator with strangers. We have added a team-building activity to our monthly staff meetings.
  5. Sharing our current music playlists and shows we are watching on Netflix.
  6. Maintaining our daily stand-ups, connecting each day and seeing everyone “on theZoom.” On Fridays, we show off great work and give shout-outs to the staff that have stepped up that week.
  7. Online yoga together. I’m a yoga teacher and I’ve been doing brief yoga/movement breaks with my colleagues using Google Meet.

I can’t wait to see everyone again in person. In the meantime, we continue to find fun ways to stay connected with each other.


Sarah Elliott, Market Manager, Dane County Farmers’ Market

Supporting Family Farmers and Small Food Businesses

If this were a typical year, thousands of people from across southern Wisconsin would be spending each Saturday strolling around the Wisconsin State Capitol Square–counter-clockwise, of course. While savoring delicious bakery goods, these shoppers would be buying the freshest produce, meats, cheeses, and so much more directly from the family farmers and small farm businesses that make up the Dane County Farmers’ Market (DCFM).

But this year is anything but normal. While the opening of our outdoor season was postponed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DCFM is still finding ways to connect farmers directly with their customers. As a result, we had to completely reinvent the model of how we do business while preserving DCFM’s fundamental mission of ensuring that small family farmers are economically viable. We also believe it’s a critical time to make sure the Madison community has access to fresh, local foods.

Farmers will continue to produce food, and we all need to eat, so the DCFM immediately launched a multi-pronged approach to continue to connect farmers and customers.

  1. We developed the Guide to Buying Directly from DCFM Members. Farmers are very resilient and resourceful. Many leaped into action and started offering home delivery, on-farm pick-up, and other ways that customers can connect directly with them. We have been updating this resource two to three times per week and will continue to do so as our growing season progresses.
  2. In partnership with the Alliant Energy Center, we are hosting twice-per-week Local Food Pick Ups. We launched an online marketplace that provides a unified shopping experience. Customers may place one order that includes as many of the participating DCFM members’ products that they wish to purchase. The pre-order and drive-thru procedures that are core to the pick-up process provide a safe way for patrons to buy directly from farmers.
  3. In partnership with FairShare CSA Coalition, we also created a crowd-funded Emergency Farmer Fund. It helps our member farmers who need immediate assistance dealing with the crushing loss of income caused by the pandemic. To date, we have provided 14 grants and raised over $30,000.

Our food system is a vast and interconnected web. In southern Wisconsin, we are truly fortunate to have a robust local food system that provides resiliency in the face of a crisis. Our community must continue to support family farmers and small food businesses if we’re going to sustain this system.

For complete information on how the Dane County Farmers’ Market is responding to COVID-19, please visit

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