There’s nothing like filling your plate with Iowa’s summer garden goodness. From asparagus to zucchini, it’s all there, ready for the taking and eating.

If you don’t garden yourself, or even if you do and want more variety, Iowans can make a short trip to your local farmers market and reap your weekly harvest.

Like many events, many farmers markets were closed during the 2020 COVID shutdowns. But they are back now — in many cases bigger and better than ever. 

“The silver lining has been the growing demand for local products,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “As supply chains were disrupted, people started to think where can I get this. It shortened the distance from farm to plate and created an opportunity for Iowa producers.” 

“It was our best year (in 2020),” says Marcie Raasch at Bridgewater Farm, a 40-acre diversified farm that specializes in organic food, located near Bridgewater in Adair County. “People really started thinking about where they get their food."

Bridgewater Farm sells at farmers markets in Des Moines, Atlantic, Creston and Omaha.

Pictured above: Rebecca and Mike Halverson, of Cedar Falls, bought tulips at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market this spring.

Iowa has more than 200 farmers markets, giving it one of the highest per capita rates in the nation. Markets range from a few local vendors to large cultural icons like the Des Moines or Cedar Rapids farmers markets.

Pictured above:  Right, from top to bottom: Danielle Cloe and Cody Perry, both of Des Moines, share a treat with their canine friend Sookie at the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market. Amy Felix and Irvin Mendoza, both of Des Moines, grab a bouquet and a smoothie. It's a girls' day out for Maria Stech, of Des Moines, and daughters Anastasia, 15, and Arianna, 12.

Farmers markets offer fruits and vegetables, baked goods, meat, eggs, honey, fresh flowers and crafts. They are often community events with food trucks and live entertainment. They can be a place to shop for groceries, or just to visit with your neighbor.

Look no further

Iowa’s farmers markets continue to provide a vital connection between urban consumers and local farmers.

“Things are looking great for this year, and we’re back to pre-pandemic numbers of around 200 vendors,” says Jenn Draper, Cedar Rapids Downtown Farmers Market manager. 

The Cedar Rapids Farmers Market is held eight Saturdays in the summer and attracts around 12,000 to 13,000 visitors each week. 

“We’re part of the life cycle of local food, and that helps keep dollars in the local community,” Draper says.

The Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market, open Saturday mornings from May through October, attracts 20,000 to 25,000 people and 300 vendors each week.

“If you come to the market you will notice how full it is and many new products,” says Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market Manager Megan Renkel.

Renkel says the market has worked to promote local minority farmers and vendors to represent the diversity of the Iowa’s ag community.

The Iowa Farmers Market Association and Iowa Department of Agriculture also offer resources for vendors and markets including market development, food safety regulations, marketing and data collection.

Iowa’s farmers markets are an important link between urban centers and rural, production centered areas, connecting Iowans through food and personal contact.

“It’s summer, and Iowa’s farmers markets are in full swing,” Naig says. “We encourage you to get out and connect with and support producers and eat good healthy food. We’re excited about the growth in our lively farmers market scene the past several years and are looking forward to a great 2023 season.”

Queck-Matzie is a freelance writer from Greenfield.