Soup:Bowl – a table to farm event



photo: Maryam Ladoni

On Saturday, 20 October 2018 Spatula&Barcode, in collaboration with ceramicist Grant Gustafson, distributed handmade ceramic bowls to vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market between 6 and 9 AM.


photo: Maryam Ladoni

From noon to 3 PM, homemade soup, sourdough rolls and artisanal apple cider were served nearby at Maiaspace, a former church owned by Chele Isaac and John Neis.


photo: Maryam Ladoni

In advance of the event, Gustafson worked for two-months creating the bowls at the Dongzhu Pottery Studio.

grant making bowls

photo: Grant Gustafson

Over the same period of time, Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson promoted the event to market vendors. We talked several times with each of roughly 200 different vendors starting in late September.  On alternate weekends, we provided them with successively more detailed information in a series of  flyers.

On Friday 19 October, we prepared 200 servings (12 gallons) of butternut squash soup using squash we had grown ourselves and 200 rolls using sourdough that Spatula&Barcode have been cultivating since 2015.  We were aided in this process by Alex Donnelly, Grant Gustafson, Kel Mur (pictured below), Lars Johnson, Libby LaDue, Katelyn Palesek, and Zoe Klein.


photo Michael Peterson

On the day of the event, weather seemed fine as we were distributing the bowls.  But from 9 AM to noon, the market was inundated with gale force winds, hail, snow, sleet, and rain. By ten AM, the square was nearly emptied of vendors most of whom were too wet and cold to stick around until noon.  Nevertheless, seventy of the hardiest did come to eat soup with us!


photo: Maryam Ladoni

Our team for distribution day was Alex Donnelly (pictured below), Chele Isaac (picture above), Maryam Ladoni (photographer extraordinaire), John Nies, and Michelle Miller (picture below).


photo: Maryam Ladoni


photo: Laurie Beth Clark

Because many vendors chose not to come into town at all on the 20th due to the volatile weather, Clark and Peterson returned to the market with the remaining bowls and gifted them to vendors who had not yet received them. (Unfortunately, it was not possible to re-stage the soup party).

This followup process allowed us to talk with almost everyone on the square, many of whom expressed their enthusiasm for the event and/or their regrets at not being able to attend.  We were asked repeatedly whether we planned to make this an annual event. In addition to their pleasure at being feted, the farmers mentioned that opportunities to socialize with one another were few and far between.


We’ve been shopping at the Dane County Farmers Market for more than 30 years. We really like the idea of feeding farmers, and the image of the shared bowls, but mostly we like celebrating the people who make this unique market so special. This project is a kind of sequel to Feeding Farmers, our 2016 Foodways project in which we recruited artists to prepare bespoke meals for vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market.

We were inspired to create Soup:Bowl by a civic event we attended with Alicia Rios in 2016 in Valdepeñas, Spain, where the entire town sat down at the end of a festival and ate stew from bowls that commemorated the event.

The City of Madison supported the production of the hand-made bowls through through Blink!, the Madison Arts Commission’s temporary public art program.

The varietal apple ciders were donated by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.  Thanks to Jonny Hunter and Underground Food Collective for storing them for us from August to October

We are particularly grateful to Sarah Elliott of the Dane County Farmers Market for her enthusiasm and support throughout the planning and implementation of Soup:Bowl.





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