From fresh-picked tomatoes and sweet corn to homemade pies and jams, Iowans love the wide selection of delicious, nutritious food at their nearest farmers market. Bill Northey, Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture, says a survey a few years ago aimed to measure the economic impact of the parking lot marketplaces.
"The survey said that we had $31.5 million worth of products moving through our farmer’s markets and that was direct sales," Northey says. "We think that number’s increased dramatically as we’ve seen markets are bigger and more markets in the state. Right now we have 220 farmers markets in the state." More than 135,000 Iowans shop regularly at their local farmers market during the typical 22-week season in 88 of Iowa’s 99 counties.
"We have a tradition in Iowa of liking to know where our food came from," Northey says. He recalls growing up and working in his family’s garden for his parents and says "the chance to be able to look across the table and see somebody who raised our food brings us back to that and makes us feel a little more secure in where it came from." He says fixing fresh food from farmers markets adds "personality" to our meals.
This is Iowa Farmers Market Week and Northey notes the already-popular markets will be offering events to provide added incentives to consumers. The Iowa Department of Agriculture is partnering with 19 markets throughout the state. Dollar-off coupons are being distributed to shoppers at their markets to redeem toward the purchase of locally-grown produce. Also, each market will be handing out reusable market totes, recipes packets and will host a cooking demonstration or a tasting booth.
The markets taking part are: Cherokee Area Farmers Market; Clarke County Farmers Market (Osceola); Davenport Farmers Market (Mississippi Valley Growers Association); Drake Neighborhood Farmers Market (Des Moines); Highland Park Farmers Market (Des Moines); Humboldt Farmers Market; Independence Farmers Market; Knoxville Farmers Market; Lakes Area Farmers Market (Spirit Lake); Lone Tree Farmers Market; Manchester Farmers Market; North Grand Farmers Market (Ames); Oelwein Farmers Market; Oskaloosa Farmers Market; Ottumwa Farmers Market; Rolfe Farmers Market; Spencer Farmers Market; West Burlington Open Air Market; Winneshiek County Farmers Market (Decorah).
For a directory of all farmers markets statewide, visit the Iowa ag website at: http://idalsdata.org/IowaData/farmersMarket.cfm .