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The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Farmers’ Market blooms in the spring

Vendors at the first Grinnell Farmers’ Market of the season display their wares on 4th Avenue. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Vendors at the first Grinnell Farmers’ Market of the season display their wares on 4th Avenue. Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.
Vendors at the first Grinnell Farmers’ Market of the season display their wares on 4th Avenue.
Photo by Ellen Schoenmaker.

Lily Bohlke, Features Editor

On Thursday, May 12, the Grinnell Farmers’ Market reopened for the season at 833 4th Avenue. The market is more than 40 years old and approximately twenty vendors were ready with new and fresh items to sell yesterday. The market will be open every Thursday from 3 to 6 p.m. and every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. until October 22.

Chamber Director Rachael Kinnick said that the farmers’ market is an opportunity for local vendors to highlight their products and for purchasers to both contribute to and gain from their community.

“We really look at it as an opportunity to give back to local farmers and have the local community be able to have that farm-to-table experience,” Kinnick said. “There’s also a quality of life component — to be able to have access to local foods and local produce is very important.”

The Grinnell Farmers’ Market is a 100 percent producer market with all of its vendors selling specialized homemade and homegrown items. Yesterday, Grinnell residents had the chance to buy fresh produce, fragrant soaps, hand-knit oven mitts and other crafts, ceramic sports balls featuring Iowa sports teams, cookies and other baked goods, among other items.

It was a cool and windy day, but all the vendors were out and ready sitting by their tables and under their tents ready to start the market season strong despite the less-than-ideal weather. Grinnellians flocked to tables looking for crafts and baked goods to bring home. This reporter couldn’t help but buy zucchini and banana nut bread — $2.75 for one and $5 for two.

Kerri Olson, vendor and Saturday market manager, was inspired to begin gardening by her husband’s parents’ 150-acre farm market. Yesterday, she was out selling tomato plants as well as other herb plants, a step in the journey from hobby to business.

“One day I’m picking a lot of green beans and I’m thinking ‘is there anywhere we can sell these?’ The next year we were selling at the farmers market,” Olson said. “It has grown into an overgrown hobby, so now it’s a business and I do it full-time.”

The Grinnell Farmers’ Market also has a partnership with Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), the local food pantry. Each week, MICA comes to the farmers market to collect any excess produce that vendors either don’t want to take home or don’t have time to use. Last year, vendors collectively donated 750 pounds of food throughout the season, and Kinnick expects about around 1,000 pounds for the coming season.

“We sell most [of our produce] or eat them ourselves, or we do donate to … MICA if there are things that aren’t going to be utilized soon enough or able to be sold,” Olson said. 

This year for the first time, the market is partnering with AmeriCorps to add a wellness component on every second Saturday and third Thursday of the month. The first one will take place tomorrow morning. Activities will include children’s book readings, a taste test scavenger hunt with a book prize and a bike kids can pedal to make their own smoothies, among other activities designed to make the farmers market more engaging and fun.

“We’ll have pizza planting, so kids will come and plant different things they may be able to then use on a pizza later — tomatoes, onions and basil,” Kinnick said.

As well as serving kids’ needs in Grinnell, the farmers’ market has added on various aspects of community to better serve customers, students, townspeople and vendors. Olson described it as a reciprocity of ideas and learning, which the market has been instrumental in fostering.

“People have given me recipes or ideas,” Olson said. “They ask advice from me, of course, I don’t know everything, so we just learn from each other.”

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