A healthy Fort Dodge tradition will return Saturday when the Fort Dodge area Farmers Market opens in the northwest corner of the Crossroads Mall parking lot.
The market will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays and 1:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through October, offering shoppers sweet corn, squash, tomatoes, carrots, honey, baked goods and a whole bevy of berries grown in the area.
"Just about anything you could want, they have," said Mary Ann Brown.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Richard Buske proudly displays a freshly harvested bunch of radishes at his farm north of Fort Dodge. Buske sells his fresh vegetables at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market.
Brown has been selling at the market pretty much since it began. Her husband Richard Brown Sr. originally got the market organized and still serves as the market master.
"The way this started way back then, they said the kids weren't getting enough nutrition," Richard Brown said.
While Richard Brown manages the market, Mary Ann Brown sells produce from their 3-acre garden. Their son, Richard Brown Jr., also helps out with the gardening and the market.
"Each year I've been on the planet, my mom and dad have had a garden," he said. "Usually they have 2,200 tomato plants every year and at least nine different kids of pepper, all the way up to the hot stuff. They have artichokes, three or four types of carrots, different kinds of onions, beets, squash, pumpkins, gooseberries, blueberries, raspberries and strawberries."
"Berries are becoming more popular," Mary Ann Brown said. "A lot of people are trying different kinds."
Mary Ann Brown said their produce is not called organic because they are not registered with the state, but it is grown without using any chemicals.
"We use a lot of mulch," she explained. "We mulch the plants to keep the weeds down. There's a lot that we do by hand. It's not a real easy way of doing it. You just go out and pull the weeds by hand."
Richard Buske has been selling at the market for around 23 years.
"It keeps you young," he said. "And it keeps me busy. Otherwise I don't know what I'd do."
Buske said by buying at the market, people can get the best vegetables.
"There's absolutely no comparison," he said. "Instead of getting a cardboard tomato, you can get a nice juicy one, with some flavor. And it's not shipped over from Florida or whatever, and all the gas; it's right from the garden.
"Just because a tomato is red, it doesn't mean it's a tasty tomato, it just means it's a red tomato."
Mary Ann Brown said some of the vendors come from as far as 60 or 70 miles away, but all are from Iowa. It is hard to say how many vendors will be there to start off the season, she said.
"The average mid-season is about a dozen," she said.
Richard Brown Sr. said the market accepts vouchers and checks from the Women, Infants and Children program, and programs for senior citizens.
Buske also sells honey produced by his son, Mike Buske.
Mike Buske said buying local honey may help allergy sufferers.
"If you have allergies, then the things giving you allergic reactions are from your local area," he explained. "From what I understand, local means within six miles. If you get honey from within six miles of your home, you have a better chance of it fitting your allergies than if you buy honey from China."
Mike Buske said keeping bees is a lot more than just letting the bees do their work and collecting the sweets every once in a while.
"It's like any other livestock. You have to make sure they have food, make sure they're healthy. If they're not healthy, you have to figure out what's wrong and give them medication."
Richard Buske also keeps busy planting 15,000 onions by hand, as well as his other vegetables.
"I don't do it all at once," he said. "I've been at it for two months now probably."
He said it was a little early for most fruits and vegetables, but he hopes to have some onions, rhubarb, radishes, and lettuce for the first farmer's market. Unfortunately, the unusually warm spring weather means asparagus likely won't be on the table, he said.
"The asparagus came on too early. It's coming to an end and farmer's market hasn't started yet," Buske said.
Contact Joe Sutter at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org