Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market
Sure, there are places here to buy corn: corn on the cob, popcorn, corn bread and even sweet corn ice cream. But the 200-plus vendors at this market in the heart of farm country sell an enormous variety of local wares beyond the state's signature ears.
At vendor stalls spread among nine city blocks, the market averages 18,000 visitors on Saturdays from May through October. It's a friendly scene, with musicians playing casual concerts, educational programs for kids and a "bike valet" that not only secures shoppers' bicycles but also will check the tires. Two years ago, the market launched a Meals from the Market program that takes shoppers' and vendors' fresh food donations and distributes them to local programs serving Des Moines' hungry and homeless.
Locals' love of this market is typified by Betsy Rubiner, whose plans for the season's opening were as follows: "I'm going to the market on Saturday unless there's a tornado." An author and travel writer who has shopped farmers markets around the country, Rubiner considers Des Moines' market "one of the best things about living here."
Among Rubiner's favorite vendors at the market are Orale! Salsa ("My go-to salsa lady! We like the HOT kind."), Koch Woodworking ("Terrific rough-hewn wood plates and bowls made from various trees found in Iowa."), Williams and Sons Orchard ("I buy big boxes of Jonathan apples in the fall from these folks to make applesauce, which I freeze for the winter."), and South Union Bakery ("Great bread including the world's best ciabatta anywhere — trust me."). Last but not least, she recommends Westrum Produce: "Big farm family, nice people, always dependable for the latest in-season produce."
Saturdays: 7 a.m.-noon, May 7-October 29, at the Historic Court Avenue District, on Court Avenue between First and Fifth Streets
Wednesday market: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., August 31-October 5, outdoors on Thirteenth Street between Grand and Locust
Winter markets: Fridays November 18 to December 16, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.; and Saturdays November 19 and December 17, 9 a.m.-1 p.m., indoors and outdoors at 400 Locust St., Downtown Des Moines