DES MOINES, Iowa – Saturday, May 3 is the first day of the Downtown Farmers’ Market in Des Moines, and organizers say 2014 will be a little different.
This year 50 additional vendors are set to join the Downtown Farmers’ Market’s ranks. Some will be organic and chemical-free produce growers, while others will sell meats from heritage livestock.
“Fifty new entrepreneurs joining us in one season is kind of a record year for us, says Downtown Farmers’ Market Director Kelly Foss, “and I think what’s the attraction are farmers and producers have realized this is a place they can connect to people who want to eat local and so it’s a place they can be successful. . . There’s no where that they have the opportunity to connect directly, and to really sell at a farmers market of this size.”
Soggy weather and lingering winter cold has kept many produce growers out of the fields so far this year. Foss says producers have worked through the challenges and will have produce in time for the first market Saturday.
“Farmers are very resilient,” says Foss. “I just visited a farm on Monday – Maxwell Farm, in Rhodes, Iowa – and [farmer Greg Maxwell] has a great amount of asparagus, and so do many of our other producers, so we definitely know we’re going to be seeing some asparagus. We also have farmers who are producing using techniques such as high tunnels. So they’re able to grow early in the season: they have a covered area; it’s not getting wet; it’s staying warm. So we’re going to see the leafy greens, the spinach and kind of the lettuce mixes, and a lot of things you’d be surprised to see this early in the season, but our growers are really using technology to help them start their season and to help them get a jump start.”
Several years ago the Downtown Farmers’ Market began opening a week earlier; the first Saturday in May. Even with difficult spring weather becoming more commonplace, Foss says the move has been well-received.
“That was really based on the need,” says Foss. “Our farmers really wanted to start selling earlier. In addition to produce, we have meats and cheese locally raised, and a lot of our farmers are selling bedding plants and vegetable plants to help people grow thier own gardens. So, this is a perfect time in the season to sell those types of things. “