Cold and snowy conditions in April put many growers a couple weeks behind schedule, but a handful of farmers’ markets will still be opening around the state this weekend.
Kelly Foss is director of the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market, which begins its 43rd season on Saturday. “We have 300 entrepreneurs, growers, and farmers joining us this year,” Foss said. “They’re coming from 56 Iowa counties, from all edges of the state.” The Des Moines market, the largest in the state, draws around 25,000 visitors each Saturday between May and October. While growing conditions were less than ideal last month, Foss still expects there will be fresh produce for sale on opening day.
“Many of our growers are using high tunnels and that helps warm the ground a little earlier and it will also help protect (plants) from high winds, hard rains, hail, or even snow that might happen in April,” Foss said. “So, they were able to plant things already and get things moving along.” According to Foss, 80-percent of the vendors at the Des Moines market are selling food – grown on farms all over the state.
“People want to know where their food is grown,” Foss said. “And it’s quite a good experience to be at the farmers’ market and get to meet the farmer who is raising the hens, producing the eggs that you’re feeding to your family, for example.” The Des Moines Farmers’ Market runs from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturdays. Parking can be difficult to find in the area close to the market, so Foss suggests visitors take advantage of the FREE park-and-ride shuttle – buses that travel through downtown Des Moines from the State Capitol to the east, to the Sculpture Park to the west.
“It makes this constant loop all morning, throughout the day on Saturday. It stops at about every corner and you can hop on and hop off. Essentially, you can find a good parking spot and if it’s not as close to the market as you had hoped, the shuttle will bring you right to the farmers’ market,” Foss said. “Then, when you’re finished, you can hop back on the bus and it’ll take you back to your car.”
The Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market spans nine city blocks – centered mainly on Court Avenue, from First Street to Fifth Avenue. Many farmers’ markets in Iowa’s smaller cities will open for the season in early-to-mid June.