Thursday, May 17, 2007

It's Farmer's Market season in Iowa

Fresh garden vegetables, home-made baked goods, foods and crafts made right here in Iowa by local producers...these are just a few of the things you can find at an Iowa Farmer's Market.

Over the next few weeks, Farmer's Markets in almost every part of the state will be opening up for the summer season.

Pictured in the photo to the right are Kathy and Charles Newton of rural Davis County. They were busy today selling their farm fresh eggs and honey at the Thursday on Third event in Ottumwa, a weekly market featuring live music in the downtown park. There are also regular Farmer's Markets in Ottumwa on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the summer.

Self proclaimed hobby-beekeepers, the Newtons operate an apiary on their rural homestead near Drakesville. They produce raw, unheated honey for sale in large or small containers. They also make a health supplement called bee pollen as well as lotions, lip balms and candles made from beeswax.

Charles Newton said he enjoys selling his goods at the Farmer's Markets here in southern Iowa. He also regularly sets up shop at Ottumwa's Wednesday Farmer's Market, and at the Farmer's Market in Fairfield on Saturdays.

Some of Iowa's Farmer's Markets are big and bustling weekly events with an almost festival-like atmosphere, such as the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market. Others are just a weekly gathering of gardeners sitting in folding chairs offering some of the freshest Iowa produce available.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship maintains a current directory of almost all of the regular Farmer's Markets in the state. The directory provides the dates, times and location of markets throughout Iowa, as well as contact information for the event organizers. Click here for the full directory. Gardeners with extra vegetables can contact the event organizers to learn how to set up a stand and sell their products.

Some of Iowa's Farmer's Markets are certified as locations that accept Farmer's Market Nutrition Program checks. According to IDALS, the WIC Farmer's Market Nutrition Program provides resources in the form of fresh, nutritious unprepared foods such as fruits and vegetables to women, infants and children who are "nutrionally at risk." The program works through the Iowa Department of Public Health and local WIC agencies to provide the vouchers for fresh produce from certified Farmer's Market vendors.

There is also a program called the Seniors Farmer's Market Nutrition Program that provides coupons to low-income seniors that can be exchanged for eligible foods.

To participate in these programs, vendors are required to attend a free class to be certified. According to IDALS, the next vendor training session will be held on June 21 in Des Moines at the Wallace Building. Farmers and gardeners interested in being certified through the program just need to call 515-281-3632 to register.

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