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Local Products Featured at Farmers Market

Fresh produce is sold year round at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market.

Photo credit: Fort Wayne Farmers Market

Fresh produce is sold year round at the Fort Wayne Farmers Market.
Written by: Communicator StaffFebruary 27, 2018

Written by: Nicole Winans

While most markets in Fort Wayne close before winter hits, the Fort Wayne Farmers Market is open year round. This season the market moved indoors Oct. 7 and will be moving back outdoors May 12 to Barr and Wayne Streets.

“We want to provide healthy local food access to the Fort Wayne community,” said Lisa Haagen, the Fort Wayne Farmers Market coordinator.

When the market began, it was only open one Saturday a month, but coordinators have now met their goal of the market being open weekly year-round, Haagen said.

Over the course of five years, farmers were eased into the year-round schedule with 2017 being the first year the market was open every Saturday.

Changes have been made to help better serve the needs of the vendors and Fort Wayne community, Haagen said.

Just like the outdoor market, the indoor market offers a variety of fresh food and products including produce, meats, eggs, homemade breads, natural products and crafters.

“Our indoor market only has space for 42 vendors so you can expect the best of the best,” Haagen said.

Only local, producer-only vendors are accepted with some consistent and others changing each week.

Vendors are typically accepted within a 50-mile radius unless they offer a very unique product not currently in the market.

“Our goal is to see the vendors survive and their business survive and grow,” Haagen said.

The market not only provides an opportunity to buy local but also an educational opportunity.

“Buyers can learn first-hand from the growers about their variety of products, growing approaches and the use of, if any, chemicals and insecticides,” vendor Gerry Nagel of Nagels Garden House said.

Many are surprised to find the vendors can grow fresh produce even in the winter, Haagen said.

Nagels Garden House is just one of the vendors that has greenhouses operational throughout the winter months.

Leading up to the holidays, they sell specialty evergreen wreaths, door swags, natural evergreen centerpieces, boxwood and winter berry table decorations, decorative wall displays and poinsettias.  In addition to the greenery selections, they offer succulents, cacti, air plants and air-cleansing houseplants.

Customers shop local at the indoors 2018 Fort Wayne Farmers Market.

Customers shop local at the indoors 2018 Fort Wayne Farmers Market.

As spring nears, Nagels will begin selling starter garden plants, herbs and perennials.

Sarah and Josh Smith, owners and operators of Wholesome Meadows Farm, offer brown, non-GMO, pasture-raised eggs. They have lights on their chickens so they lay throughout the entire winter.

“We want to provide our community with fresh, pasture-raised, healthy eggs in the winter as well as in the summer,” Sarah Smith said.

The couple also makes natural lotion, lip balm and deodorant during the winter months.

On a periodic basis, the market features children’s activities. Past events include pottery and a safe (nut-free) trick or treat.

“We enjoy seeing our customers every week,” Smith said. “We get to know their families, and they get to know ours.”

Since its beginnings, the market has experienced tremendous growth of both customers and vendors, Nagel said.

Fort Wayne Farmers Market is currently in the process of starting an online market. Customers will be able to pre-order and pay for products online after the March 1 launch date. While customers will still have to come to the market to pick-up their orders, the online market will allow for vendors to better plan their inventory and offer a wider variety of products, Haagen said.

Another change coming in Sept. 2018 is the combining of Fort Wayne’s Farmers Market and the YLNI Farmers Market.

“We are trying to combine forces to create a bigger and better market,” Haagen said.

Until the joining takes place, the Fort Wayne Farmers Market will continue to operate as normal.

The entire market is operated by Haagen and a core group of volunteers. Fort Wayne Farmers market is not supported by the city but self-funded. In order to keep expanding the market, volunteers and resources are needed.

They are in special need of marketing and promotions assistance and are open to fresh perspectives and new ideas, Haagen said.

“It would be great for more college students to come out,” Haagen said. “It is such a rewarding feeling to know who touched your products, where they come from and how they came about.”

Fort Wayne Farmers Market welcomes all ages and is completely free to attend. There is no entrance fee and attendees can park for free with downtown’s free weekend street parking.

The market is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday and is currently located at Parkview Field in the Lincoln Financial Event Center.

For more information visit ftwaynesfarmersmarket.com.