WEST DES MOINES, Iowa -- The Farmers' Market in West Des Moines’ Historic Valley Junction returns for the 29th year on Thursday night, and things have changed quite a bit since the start of the market.
“I think you probably had five people pulling up with a bed full of corn, it’s a lot different now,” said Katie Funk of Historic Valley Junction. “We started this version of the market in 1988.”
Now, there's a little more than corn. On Thursday night, you’ll see over 70 different vendors with food and goods from all over the world.
Funk is an organizer for the market, and she knows international flare has helped grow the market but it’s the vendors and their stories that keep people coming back.
“They do have a story, they started from scratch, they started in their kitchen and this is their platform to keep growing,” said Funk.
One of the familiar faces you’ll find is Chaouki Younes. He’s been a vendor at the market since the early years and still remembers setting up for the first time.
“I remember it was cold and snowy,” said Younes. “We just waited in the car until the snow stopped.”
He eventually got used to the weather, and started Storybook Orchard in Story City. Now, you can find his crops at most farmers' markets in the metro, but he's most comfortable at the Valley Junction location.
“Because I have all these people come back looking for us. Every one of them will come up and shake my hand and give us a hug. And that is a family to me,” said Younes.
Younes credits the longevity he’s had at the market to his family-like approach. He always has a smile and a hug waiting for his customers, he introduces people to his family--like his daughter Hanin who often helps out--and, of course, the food is pretty good, too. Younes tends to his crops the same way his family did back in Lebanon, and says the customers in West Des Moines appreciate that old country approach.
“And then somebody comes to you and they say, ‘I enjoy your produce' and give you a hug. That makes you feel very good. It makes you feel like you want to cry sometime, too,” said Younes.
Younes’ stand is located on the corner of 5th and Elm Street at the Valley Junction Farmers' Market. The market runs from 4 p.m. - 8 p.m. every Thursday in the summer.