Iowa has more than 170 farmer’s markets and many of them opened for the summer this weekend. Kelly Foss is the director of the state’s largest and oldest farmers market in downtown Des Moines, which involves 200 vendors from every corner of Iowa.
Foss says vendors come to Des Moines from 43 of Iowa’s 99 counties. Just 10 years ago, less than 5,000 people attended the Des Moines Farmers Market. Now, 15-to-20,000 people crowd Court Avenue in downtown Des Moines every Saturday. Foss says Iowans are more concerned these days with what they’re eating and want to support local growers.
"When I started with the market a few years back, I didn’t get questions about where the product comes from or how it’s grown. Now, the signage at the market for our farmers is very important because people are asking things like is (the product) grown organically, are they free range eggs or are they hormone free. People are just becoming more in tune to what they’re putting in their body, so they do want to meet the farmer that’s growing it," Foss said.
The farmers market in Des Moines started in 1976. Foss says it’s amazing to see the variety of foods and products that are made in Iowa. "Even if you’re not coming to buy free-range eggs or Iowa pork, it is a great way to learn about what is going on in our state," Foss said. Many Iowans attend farmers markets and leave without buying a thing. Foss says the weekly markets have become more of a social event rather than a shopping spree.
"When you can support farmers from all over without driving too far…it’s really an exciting time. The community event that it’s become is so vibrant. I think people sort of view it as their town square or their social event of the week," Foss said.