As the warmth of spring sets in and moves into summer, the more than 170 farmers markets across the state are beginning to reopen and offer their wide variety of fresh, affordable, convenient and healthy products.
Farmers markets are a great asset to the communities that have them. By giving local producers a place to directly market their goods and bringing business to sometimes struggling town centers, farmers markets make an estimated $31.5 million impact on the Iowa economy. Whether you are looking for fresh fruits and vegetable, delicious baked goods, locally raised meat products, flowers, crafts, homemade jams, or any number of other products, you are encouraged to take the time to visit your local farmers market this season.
Iowa has over 170 farmers markets
You'll be in good company if you do. Over 135,000 Iowans shop regularly at their local farmers market during the typical 22 week market season, and Iowans are lucky to have a lot of options. With more than 170 markets, Iowa has the third most number of markets nationally and the most per capita.
As a result, whether you are in downtown Des Moines where the state's largest farmers market is located, or Waukon in the northeast corner of Iowa or in Page County in southwest Iowa, you are never too far away from the fresh produce and delicious local delicacies of a farmers market.
To find the market closest to you, visit the Iowa Department of Agriculture's website, which has a full directory of the markets found across the state. You can search by city or county or look at the complete directory. To find the directory, simply go to www.agriculture.state.ia.us and click on the "Farmers Market" link on the left side of the page.
Iowa Ag Department offers help
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, through the Horticulture and Farmers' Market Bureau, is responsible for programs designed to assist Iowans in the marketing and promotion of horticultural products, which includes farmers markets. IDALS has programs that can help communities create new markets and help promote the farmers markets already in existence.
The department also oversees the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which makes checks available to low-income seniors to help them in the purchasing of fruits and vegetables available at the farmers markets across the state. Unfortunately, seniors often don't get the number and variety of fruit and vegetable servings recommended by nutrition experts and this program is designed to help correct that problem.
Seniors can sign up to receive $28 in checks through the program by contacting their local Area Agency on Aging, which can be found at www.state.ia.us/elderaffairs/aaa/index.html. To qualify, the senior's income must be less that $18,889 if single or $25,327 if married.