Iowa is home to more than 200 farmers markets located in both bigger cities and small towns. Not only are they a great way to connect producers with consumers but they do a great job of showcasing the diversity of Iowa agriculture. Of course, most farmers markets have more than produce or food products for sale and I think that is great, too. They have become, in many cases, weekly street markets where individuals or small businesses, with relatively low overhead cost, can get their products (whatever it might be!) in front of lots of possible customers.
For many, a farmers market might be the first step in their small business and it might eventually mature into something bigger. It might be an emerging artist's opportunity to get "discovered" or it could be what builds someone's confidence to jump into something bigger. You never know when a "side hustle" could become a career and create opportunities for others.
On a recent Saturday morning, I was in Ames to get my haircut at Tommy's Salon and I had some time to kill. It had been a few years since I'd been to the Ames Farmers' Market though I'm a regular at the Downtown Des Moines and Valley Junction weekly events.
I popped in for a great cup of coffee at Morning Bell Coffee Roasters and thought I would see what else I could find at the market.
A couple of blocks of historic Downtown Ames is blocked off for this event but there is generally still ample opportunity for street or lot parking nearby.
As a former CyRide transit bus driver, it also makes a lot of sense to take the bus, too!
Obviously, Ames is home to Iowa State University and that is an enormous economic driver of the community. Therefore, the Main Street has always been relatively vibrant. However, I have to commend the community on the addition of lots of public art and other statues that have been added in recent years. I certainly do not remember these installations when I was a student more than a decade ago.
As is the case elsewhere around town, you can find a statue or two of Cy.
There is even a nice park-like area in the middle of downtown.
There may be a prohibition against solicitors, but there is always plenty of strollers and dogs.
Unlike Des Moines where I never really see a food truck, I noticed that there were several with pretty steady lines.
Since it was close to lunch, I decided to try a burrito from Carlos' Quesadillas. They make a pretty strong claim to be the best food truck in Iowa...which is probably up for debate.
It took a little while for my burrito to get to me but it was worth the wait. Very delicious. I love a burrito that is put together and then they put it back on the flat top to cook it and crisp it a bit more.
I followed the burrito up with some dessert from The Sweet Shoppe of Ames, one of the cupcake vendors. She put a note on her sign letting customers know about her recent professional accomplishment and I thought I'd help her celebrate by buying one of her cupcakes.
I had the Snickers cupcake and it was heavenly.
I opted against trying the samples at the cricket vendor's tent. However, cricket is an emerging industry because they are very high in protein. Didn't I mention earlier that Iowa agriculture is quite diverse?
There were many other vendors there - offering a wide array of food, art, merchandise, information, and much more.
It wouldn't be a farmers' market without street performers. I spotted one guy trying to do some various magic tricks and another guy singing with with his guitar.
Of course, if you get sick of standing or walking, there's always some Cyclones colored seating available.
As I was walking back to my car, I spotted this smirk worthy sidewalk sign.
A 2010 study released by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said that farmers' markets contributed nearly $60 million in economic activity in 2009. Without a doubt, that number has continued to grow in the past decade.
There are still several more weeks of markets in Ames and so I would encourage you to check it out yet this Fall. They have a great Facebook page. Whether you are in town for a Cyclones event or visiting your niece at Larch Hall, the Ames Farmers Market and others like it across the state offer a lot for both the vendor and the consumer.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Story County or any of the other 98 counties in our state. If you would like to host the Iowa Adventurer or have a good idea, please drop me a note through my website.