Story by Olivia O’Hea
Photo by Luke Nankivell
Every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. the Des Moines Farmers Market combines 300 vendors, farm-fresh foods and live music to create an open air market that attracts parents, children and, of course, college students.
Recently ranked the second-best farmers market in the country by The Daily Meal, an acclaimed culinary website, the Downtown Farmers Market hosts 20,000 visitors each Saturday.
Beginning in 1976 with only 15 vendors, the Farmers Market now holds national recognition from magazines like “Country Living” and even opened smaller Wednesday and winter markets.
Junior Hannah Grimm said she loves the Farmers Market for its unique atmosphere and product diversity.
“It’s definitely more festival-like than any other market I’ve been to,” Grimm said.
While visitors stroll through the Court Avenue District, they can purchase everything from hickory-smoked bacon (from the Des Moines Bacon Company) to gluten-free cheesecake (from Sweet Treats without Wheat).
Beyond food, the Farmers Market offers soaps, clothing, jewelry, quilts and even lawn ornaments — perfect for sprucing up any residence hall.
A self-proclaimed Farmer’s Market junkie, here are my Top 5 vendors, sights and general Farmer’s Market must-sees.
1. Java Joe’s Coffee House: Java Joe’s is not only one of the oldest coffee houses in Des Moines, but also my favorite vendor to start the morning. It offers coffee drinks of all varieties — from strong roast (my favorite) to espresso. Java Joe’s is also located right off Court Avenue and is a great place to stop for lunch or see a live band.
2. Locally Grown Clothing Co.: Locally Grown originated in Iowa, at the Des Moines Farmer’s Market, and has since grown into a national company. Locally Grown promotes sustainable farming and development through a line of cool, vintage T-shirts, sweatshirts and even onesies for babies and toddlers.
3. Mao’s Homemade Eggroll and Garden: I’m a firm believer that Chinese food is good anytime of the day, and Mao’s only reaffirms this belief with the best egg rolls I’ve ever tasted. Bottom line: Anytime is a good time for a spring roll.
4. DesNamix A Capella Group: This all male a capella group performs at a variety of Des Moines events and can usually be found singing by Sbrocco on Court Avenue every Saturday morning. They’re no Brocal Chords, but Erica Bestul, a first year, still raves ,“They’re my favorite part of the Farmers Market.”
5. Fresh Café and Market: They always say save the best for last, and Fresh is definitely the best. After a long morning of eggrolls, breakfast burritos and every pastry imaginable (even Dutch letters), it’s easy to feel a little sluggish.
Fresh offers veggie burgers, organic fruit and vegetable juice, raw veggie chips and wheatgrass shots. I personally recommend the wheatgrass shot sample, only $1 for a delicious blend of vitamins and vegetables. As an added bonus, Fresh uses locally grown wheatgrass — making it good for you and good for the Des Moines community.
The Farmers Market will officially end its season on Oct. 26, giving students just five more Saturdays to take it all in. Though a parking garage offers patrons free parking on Saturdays, sophomore Katie Ramsey recommends taking the DART Bus.
“It’s free for Drake students, you don’t have to have a car and it drops you off right by the entrance,” Ramsey said.