The super-heated high-pressure ridge that parked itself over the Midwest all week decided to give way late Friday to a cooler low front that moved in just in time for the Tosa Farmers Market.
Saturday dawned a much more comfortable temperature, and apparently people who have been huddled indoors by the air-conditioning vents were eager to get back outdoors.
Dozens of bicycles were parked along a fence at the mid-morning height of the market, a line of cars wound futilely through the full parking lot west of Harwood Avenue, and lines were formed at nearly every stand.
Some area markets, notably the West Allis Farmers Market, have been hit hard, losing vendors who have no crops to sell.
Not the Tosa market. It's booming, thanks to a diversity of businesses less dependent on the weather.
"The weather makes a big difference to us here," said Becca Kitelinger, market manager. "You can definitely tell the difference today with the fact the humidity's gone and it's a little bit cooler out.
"We've definitely increased our numbers. We're back to what we usually see. These last couple weeks have been a little slower than normal."
Kitelinger said that unlike some markets, it's the customers here who stay home when it's too hot rather than the vendors – although there are a few who have struggled.
"We've been fortunate enough to have just one or two vendors a week who just don't have quite enough produce to come and sell, so they'll pull back for a week and then come back," Kitelinger said. "Our farmers are a little bit smaller, so they have a little bit more manageable crops to keep irrigated.
"Our market is a little bit different in that we curate it to have prepared food producers as well as farmers, so you can come and have your breakfast from Maxie's, you can also get your fruit and veggies, and you can get meat.
"West Allis is a great market, and they do what they do really well," Kitelinger said. "They're really focused on having lots and lots of farmers bringing you a variety of vegetables and fruits. We sort of curated more of a, 'Come down here and get your weekly shopping done,' and it has a little bit more of a natural feel of a community down here.
"We have the music, we have yoga, we have education – we really are trying to be here as a resource for the community."
Watering day and night
That's not to say that the summer so far has been anything like easy on those vendors who are challenged by the hot and dry.
Ironically, given the sweltering weather of the past week, Phil Herrin just made it to the Tosa Farmers Market with his produce for the first time this year. He had signed up to be here from the start, but the persistent lack of rain this season kept him from having enough product to meet all his commitments.
He's just now gotten enough vegetables coming on, but it's costing him not only in profits but in sleep.
"We're watering around the clock," Herrin said, "all night and all day, trying to keep up. We do the overhead watering at night because of the excessive heat.
"If you try to do overhead watering during the day it evaporates as fast as it hits the ground. We do the drip-line watering during the day."
Herrin, whose farm is near Waterloo, north of Lake Mills, is now "hoping that the well holds up."
The cost of electricity to run pumps night and day is eating into his profits, but it's also the only thing keeping him from having no crop at all.
"It's multiple pumps," Herrin said. "What we have to do is we pump from the well, out to the field, into a tank, and then to get pressure again, repump it.
"That's why it's around the clock. It's babysitting the thing. If something happens and the tank runs dry, and the pump keeps running – you're heading for town to buy a new pump."
Herrin said he's been getting by on about four hours of sleep a day for weeks, and it's wearing on him, but so far his diligence has kept him from having a water failure – and given him at least part of a typical crop to sell.
"Things like onions, cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and so forth, we can do pretty well on because you can use drip-lines on them. I think what you're going to see a shortage of is sweet corn. You can't run a drip-line on that, it isn't econonomically feasible, you have to do overhead watering, and some people are just not equipped for it or don't have the water or won't be able to keep up with it.
"One shot of rain would help us."
Fish get finicky in the heat
Living to water, at least for the time being, is a problem for Herrin and other produce growers. Living in water is always an issue for the produce at Rushing Waters Fisheries in Palmyra.
Rushing Waters is a longtime loyal vendor at the Tosa Farmers Market, and it's leaping rainbow trout logo bespeaks cool, clear, spring-fed pools teeming with hungry lunkers.
Not as much these days.
"It certainly hasn't affected us in the same capacity as it has vegetable producers," said Dori Sorensen, the fishery's farmers market director. "But we're a water-based business, and the temperature has created a lot more evaporation than we usually see this time of year.
"Our ponds' level has dropped a lot. The biggest impact that it has is that our fish really like consistent water temperature. They like it cool and consistent, and when the heat rises like this, water temperatures rise, and the fish get really stressed.
"So we can't actually feed them on their regular schedule in this weather," Sorensen said. "In fact, on really hot days we don't feed them at all. And when we're not feeding our fish – our fish aren't growing."
Rushing Waters has hung shade cloth over most of its ponds to keep them cooler and slow evaporation, Sorensen said, but that is only partially effective with ambient temperatures at triple digits.
"It's really rough on our farm crew also," Sorensen said. "You know, we can't have them out there all day."
Sorensen said that keeping the fish processing facility operating at the proper temperature is also a challenge, with "air-conditioners and refrigerators working at the max."
"We have to start our day and end our day as early as we possibly can, before the heat catches up with the AC units," Sorensen said.
"We found out that if you put a sprinkler under your condenser, it helps to keep our refrigerators and freezers cold. So that's a trick that we're using, and it's really helped."
Rushing Waters Fisheries, N301 County Rd. H, Palmyra, will host a Wisconsin Aquaculture Day event at the farm from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 21.
There will be fee fishing, a chef's demonstration at 2 p.m., farm tours at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m., and fresh and smoked fish for sale.
Prepared food available includes a grilled trout plate ($9), a salmon burger lunch ($7) and kids' hot dogs ($2).
For more information, call 262-495-2089, or visit www.rushingwaters.net.