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‘No sweat’ farmers market debuts in Des Moines

DES MOINES (AP) — Dana Greenwood ticks off four reasons why a farmers market will be a good addition to Merle Hay Mall: It’s always 72 degrees, and it offers clean restrooms, ample parking and available electrical outlets.

“When it’s cold and rainy and windy outside, people don’t go to the outside farmers markets,” said Greenwood, organizer of the Greenwood Market that will debut May 28 in the Merle Hay Mall food court. “We won’t have that problem.”

The Des Moines Register reports the Greenwood Market will operate Wednesdays through the summer and provide both growers and shoppers with an alternative to outdoor markets.

The push to buy and eat more locally grown foods has helped increase the number of farmers markets nationally by 62 percent in the last five years, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. There were 8,144 farmers markets listed in the National Farmers Market Directory in 2013, including 229 in Iowa, which tied for 10th place with North Carolina for most markets.

This year there are new farmers markets in Des Moines, Huxley and Knoxville, said Mike Bevins, state horticulturist with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The LSI Global Greens Market in Des Moines is sponsored by Lutheran Services in Iowa and will offer goods from its refugee agriculture program from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays beginning June 7 at the LSI parking lot, 3200 University Ave.

Bevins said a survey of state farmers markets from 2004 to 2009 saw a 92 percent increase in sales to about $38.4 million. A new survey to be conducted this year will likely show a similar increase over the past five years, he said.

Greenwood, who also organized the Beaverdale Farmers Market, said the 20 vendors participating in the inaugural Greenwood Market will sell produce, meats, cheeses, sauces, honey, salsas, flowers and craft items. The products come from farmers and producers mostly in central Iowa.

The Merle Hay market will be open 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and run through Sept. 3. A successful showing this summer could lead to a year-round market at the mall, Greenwood said.

“We think it’s going to be pretty neat,” said Liz Holland, CEO of Merle Hay Mall. She dubbed the event the “no-sweat farmers market” because it will serve as an alternative to the outdoor farmers markets that are subject to soaring summer temperatures. “Having events like this indoors is the new, new thing for malls,” Holland said.

Merle Hay Mall already is a designated pickup location for the Iowa Food Cooperative, which gives local producers a way to sell their goods through online ordering.

Cindy Madsen of Audubon County Family Farms participates in the food coop program at Merle Hay Mall and will be one of the Greenwood Market vendors. She sees it as chance to reach a different audience: mall shoppers.

“I think having the mall traffic will be great. The question will be whether they purchase,” she said. She also is looking for a cooler location to keep her frozen chicken and pork products compared with the hot afternoons at the outdoor Beaverdale Farmers Market, where she has sold goods the past two summers. Her family also has spent 17 years at the Downtown Farmers Market in Des Moines, most recently selling apples and bitter root during the October market.

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