Philip, together with his wife Judith, was the visionary who not only founded the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers’ Market in 1994, but doggedly persisted in securing a covered home for the market. The manifestation of his vision and hard work became a reality in 2006. It can be seen by anyone visiting the beautiful Farmers’ Market Pavilion at Phoenix Park in Eau Claire, WI. This page is dedicated to Philip A. Chute, “a towering oak, a lover of nature, a steward of the land, with 72 growth rings; each a significant band.”
“In years to come some will tell their children about what a faithful brother he was; or what a devoted husband or dedicated dad, for sure; or what a larger–than-life grandfather or a teacher that inspired; or admirable scholar and colleague that never tired.
But in years to come we will tell about the man who founded and managed the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers’ Market. The man who changed the very fortunes of families and farms in the Chippewa Valley.”
Local farmers have been bringing vegetables, fruits, eggs and other farm produce into the city of Eau Claire for more than 100 years. Sometimes, the farmers had a regular route and went door to door on a Saturday selling homemade butter and eggs. Later, farmers brought their produce to Haymarket Square in downtown Eau Claire where they sold livestock, poultry, fruits and vegetables to the townspeople. This was especially the case during the fall of the year as described by Anton Venski in his book After All These Years published in 1966 [pages 19-20]:
“In the fall of the year (c 1900s) we kids had a lot of fun when the City of Eau Claire had their annual street fair. It would continue for one full week and took place on Barstow Street and the adjoining side streets. The Haymarket was for the farmers to display their hogs, cows, steers, etc. This made it a smelly place, especially when it rained and mud would accumulate. The main street was full of stands, with show tents up on all the side streets. The business places did a flourishing business and the saloon got their share of business also. People came from the surrounding small towns and spent the day in the big city.”
Anton Bartholomew Venski – born August 24, 1890, son of a Polish immigrant who migrated to Wisconsin in 1881 or 1882.
During the 1940s and 1950s and extending into the 1960s one would often see farmers selling apples and other farm produce from the back of a pickup truck along Graham Avenue. Starting in 1980, an Eau Claire Farmers Market Association was formed and the market and the site selected was the London Square Mall parking lot. The market typically consisted of 10 to 20 vendors selling a variety of farm produce and flowers with the season extending from the middle of June until the end of October.
It should be mentioned that most communities in Wisconsin now have organized farmers markets, most of which have been formed since 1980. However, the tradition of farmers markets in North America spans a much greater period of time. For example, the city charters of St. Paul, Minnesota and Halifax, Nova Scotia, both provide market sites for farmers. The St. Paul Farmers Market is in its 146th year (1999) while the Halifax Farmers Market was founded in 1750 and has just completed its 250th year of operation.
After the 1993 season, the Eau Claire Farmers Market decided to move back to London Square mall. At about this time a number of truck farmers decided to remain in the downtown area and the Downtown Farmers Market was established. With the assistance of the Eau Claire Main Street Association and the City of Eau Claire, the Downtown Farmers Market officially opened for business in June 1994, with approximately 25 vendors in the Railroad Street Parking Lot.
The Downtown Farmers Market has now grown to a membership of 70 vendors. The market membership aspires to offer an increasingly wide variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers, breads, etc., and to offer products of highest quality and freshness. The Downtown Farmers Market operates in a covered pavilion in Phoenix Park located on the corner of Riverfront Terrace and Madison Street.
Below is a slideshow of the construction of our new facility in Phoenix Park.