Des Moines Downtown Farmers’ Market
Each spring, I eagerly anticipate the opening day of the Des Moines Farmers’ Market, held in the Court Avenue area downtown.
Each spring, the damn thing gets more crowded.
What started in 1976 with just 15 vendors and an average of 200 shoppers (according to the market’s website) has now grown to an average of 18,000 shoppers – and there were reportedly 30,000 people there last year on opening day.
That’s too many people. And dogs. And baby strollers.
An event I once would NOT HAVE MISSED on any Saturday from mid-May through October is now an event with which I have a love/hate relationship.
I still love the idea of the farmers’ market. I still go – although not every weekend – because there are things sold there that I can’t easily get anywhere else. I still have nice, friendly relationships with some of the vendors from whom I have bought bread and goat cheese and Dutch letters for more than 10 years. I still love the routine of going to the market and gathering whatever is in season – tomatoes, basil, sweet corn, watermelon, spinach – and the ever-present baked goods and cut flowers.
What I hate about it is, very simply, the crowd. It used to be that you could go early – say, before 9 a.m. – and find a place to park and walk easily from vendor to vendor. Now, even if you’re there at 7:30 in the morning, the streets are teeming with people and dogs, dogs, dogs. If you go much later, you might as well just forget it. It’s impossible to A) walk, B) find what you’re looking for, and C) enjoy the atmosphere…because it’s SO CROWDED.
That’s why I like the market so much in the fall. I was there mid-morning last Saturday, and the crowd was average – not overwhelming. This morning I got there at 7 a.m. (crazy, I know) and it was raining and still dark and hardly anyone was there yet, so it was like the farmers’ market of yore. I loved it! I got to talk to the Dutch letter guy and the bread lady and take pictures of the pumpkins. Pumpkins and apples are the best reasons to go to the market in the fall, in my opinion. But there’s still lots of produce — and everything else that I love about the market.
There’s still time to go this season! The market is open every Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon until Oct. 30. And indoor winter markets are held Nov. 19-20 and Dec. 17-18.