GROWING GREENS: Farmers’ Markets Open Saturday

Farmers are hoping for some warmer weather to get their crops growing, but don’t worry, there will still be plenty of fresh local food at the first farmers’ markets in Des Moines and Ames tomorrow.

The greens are starting to come up in these fields near Rhodes. Greg Maxwell says, “It just kind of started as a hobby. I was in sales for a couple companies.”

Farming has grown into his full-time job. He started with two acres of land 14 years ago. He now has thirty. At first he sold to grocery stores and restaurants in Des Moines, Ankeny and Ames. Maxwell says, “When I first started doing this, you had to convince the produce managers at the stores and the restaurants that you could get them a safe product, and now they come to you.”

Last year, he started spending his Saturday mornings selling his produce at the farmers markets in downtown Des Moines and Ames. He says, “Not only is it profitable, it’s quite entertaining too, to go and see all the people and visit.”

Because of the cool spring, Maxwell will only have asparagus ready for opening day. But other growers will have cool weather crops. Director of the Downtown Farmers’ Market Kelly Foss says, “So the lettuces, the spinach, greens, things like that.”

You won’t just find produce at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market. A record 50 new vendors will sell a variety of goods. Foss says, “We’re always looking for quality entrepreneurs, quality growers. We’re really trying to up the game. We really want people who are passionate about their art or passionate about their growing.”

Three hundred growers and producers are now part of the Downtown Farmers’ Market. More than two hundred will set up in the Historic Court Avenue District on any given Saturday. New items this year include Iowa maple syrup, dog treats and baby food. You’ll also find hand made goods, art and beautiful blooms. Foss says, “The market will be full of flowers, fresh bouquets as well as the hanging baskets and bedding plants you can plant in your own yards.”

As for Maxwell, he’s focusing on his acres of land. He says, “We’ve got 9 acres of asparagus, we’ll have about 5 acres of potatoes this year. We’ll have 4 to 5 acres of green beans, beets, peas, carrots, radishes and lettuce.”

The Downtown Farmers’ Market opens Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon. It’s every Saturday through October 25th in the Court Avenue District rain or shine.

The Ames Main Street Farmers’ Market also kicks off this Saturday. It’s from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The market is expanding this year to include the 300 block of Main Street. The first 50 people to buy something will get a cloth bag for all your goodies.