FARM FRESH: New Vendors For Downtown Market

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You'll find plenty of produce, meat, cheese, flowers and more fresh from the farm. The Downtown Farmers' Market kicks off for the season in the Historic Court Avenue District Saturday morning.

You'll find a bigger selection of produce earlier in the season this year. Organizers say the early spring means farmers are about a month ahead of schedule. The market also features flowers, meat, cheese, eggs and more.

The market will feature 30 new vendors. Crooked Gap Farm near Knoxville is one of those. Farmer Ethan Book says they have cows, chickens, pigs, and lamb. He says, "We do it all pasture based, portable set ups, moving animals daily to different spots."

Book got into farming four years ago and not just for the love of the land. He says, "I decided to do something about my cholesterol. It's a family deal, and I had a cholesterol of about 260 as a 25 year old."

He and his wife Rebecca started researching grass-fed meat. At first they just produced it for themselves. Now, they farm 40 acres with their four young kids. They sell the meat through the Iowa Food Co-op, to a local Knoxville restaurant and now the Downtown Des Moines Farmers' Market.

Book says, "There's so many people there and we did it on a small part time basis last year and just the reception we had was great."

This is the 1st year Crooked Gap Farms will be at the Downtown Farmers' Market the entire season. And, they're raising something new this year: rabbit. Book says, "It tastes like chicken right? That's what everyone says."

The rabbits will be at the market later this season. Book says it tastes a little different than chicken and brings a lot more to the table. He says, "It's high in protein, but it's low in calories and low in fat."

As for Book's cholesterol, he says he's already seen an improvement since he started farming. "I think it's a combination the meats, the better quality meats, the grass-fed meats, and also being outside and working more."

He says he enjoys sharing the work with his wife and kids as they grow their family farm.

Another farmer will also sell rabbit this year. The market opens tomorrow from 7 am to noon in the historic Court Avenue District. A record 40,000 people attended opening day last year, and organizers expect another big crowd this year.