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Fresh produce

Farmers Market offers locally grown fruits and vegetables

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Lydia Schmoker, of Fort Dodge, showcases some of the freshly-picked tomatoes from her family’s garden at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market on Wednesday.

Farmers markets are always busy places in the summer. Local farmers and gardeners set up to sell their fresh vegetables and fruits, but shopping at a farmers market is more than just picking out tomatoes and cucumbers and zucchinis.

The Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market, the city’s longest-running farmers market, has plenty of produce vendors, but also vendors selling handmade soap, handcrafted jewelry, farm-fresh eggs, delicious-smelling baked goods, locally-sourced honey, sticky-sweet kettle corn, beautiful bottles of wine and more.

The market is run by the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market Association, led by its current president, Phil Brown. The association and the market were established in the mid-1980s by Brown’s father, Richard, and a few others.

“It’s good, local produce that you know is good and fresh,” Brown said about why Fort Dodge area residents should shop at the market.

Many vendors at the market accept EBT food stamps or other vouchers.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Bill Bush, of Callender, pours a sample of Garden Winery wine for a customer at the Fort Dodge Area Farmer’s Market at the Crossroads Mall parking lot on Wednesday.

With many of the same vendors setting up at the farmers market week after week, year after year, they start to form a sort of family. There are vendors that come from Fort Dodge, some from further out like Gowrie and some as far away as West Bend.

“I think one of the biggest things that I noticed is that the people, usually if you’re selling something, you know about it,” said Lydia Schmoker, who runs the Brown Family Farm booth with her father, Phil Brown.

The farmers and gardeners know their produce well and are able to advise customers on how to prepare the items and what to use them for, she said.

Having these fruits and vegetables come from local, family-owned farms and gardens means the vendors know exactly what went into growing the produce – and what didn’t, like fertilizer and pesticides.

“We know where our produce came from,” Schmoker said.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Molly Sanders, of Fort Dodge, peruses some baked goods with her children, Liberty, Miles and McKenna.

Another vendor, Ron Gibbs, of Gowrie, noted that sometimes customers are hesitant to buy farmers market produce because the veggies don’t necessarily look as pretty as they do in the grocery store.

“A lot of people see it at the store and if it’s not like what they see at the store, they don’t understand it,” he said.

Gibbs has been selling at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market for 16 years. He sells garden produce and started selling honey from his 10 beehives about 12 years ago.

“It is nice to come out here and talk to people,” he said. “A lot of the other people who buy stuff garden too, so I find myself talking about gardening a lot.”

Recently, Gibbs added a light-colored honey to sell. He said he’s not 100% sure, but he thinks the light color of that honey comes from soybean fields that particular hive feeds on.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Bev Jackson, of Gowrie, sells her home-baked goods at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market in the Crossroads Mall parking lot each Wednesday and Saturday. Some of Jackson’s recipes, like her zuchinni bread, use produce she grows in her home garden.

The Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market is open Wednesdays from 1 p.m. to 5:30p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Starting today and going through the rest of the season ending in October, the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market will be located in the southeast corner of the Crossroads Mall parking lot, just across South 29th Street from Taco Tico.

Brown said the market welcomes any and all vendors. However, vendors must pay a $12 stall fee to set up at the farmers market each time – $5 going toward paying the mall for use of the space and $7 to the market itself to cover insurance and advertising.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Tusa Savali, of Long Beach, California, purchases some locally-sourced honey from Ron Gibbs, of Gowrie, at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market on Wednesday.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Corn, tomatoes, peppers and other produce are available from local growers at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market in the Crossroads Mall parking lot.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Corn, tomatoes, peppers and other produce are available from local growers at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market in the Crossroads Mall parking lot.

-Messenger photo by Kelby Wingert
Mark and Janine Lynch, of Barnum, sell their Lynch Farm popcorn at the Fort Dodge Area Farmers Market each week.

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