WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Farmers markets have brought
homegrown food to Indiana tables for hundreds of years, and this year is no
Spring vegetables and foods, such as asparagus and
mushrooms, are being harvested and sold at markets such as the Sagamore West
Farmers Market in West Lafayette.
“Each of the farmers markets in Lafayette are a little
different, but you will find a mix of farmers who sell fruits, veggies and
flowers direct to consumers,” said Erin Nelson, director of chamber and quality
of life for Greater Lafayette Commerce.
“We do have prepared foods, as well. We have vendors who
either grow all the food they prepare themselves or they purchase it from
another farmer who sells in the market, making sure it’s all local. You can pick
up a prepared lunch or pick up groceries for the rest of the week.”
Nelson described farmers markets as an economic tool to
support farmers and those who need fruits, vegetables and meats. She said that
it is important to preserve and promote the local community and to know where
your food comes from.
“What it really comes down to its providing locally raised
food direct to consumers,” she said. “It’s supporting a really strong local
economy and making sure our growers can have a sustained life here as
The Cooley family has been participating in the Sagamore
West Market for nine years.
“Last week, we had asparagus, spinach, rhubarb and tomato
plants,” said Kevin Cooley, grower in Lafayette. “As we get into the season, we
grow a large variety of food. We do this farmers market, a Community Supported
Agriculture program, we have a farm stand on our farm and in the winter we do
online sales because we grow in high tunnels.”
Cooley works with his wife, Tracey, to run the business.
Their daughter, Lacie, helps out whenever she can. Recently, she rang the bell
signaling the open of the market.
“Selling at a farmers market is fun,” Kevin Cooley said.
“But it takes a lot more time than people would ever imagine. You’ve got to get
it harvested the day before, get it all packaged up and ready to go. Then you
have to haul all the stuff, set up and you never know what the weather is going
Cooley said that sometimes they have to tear down just an
hour after setting up, depending on weather conditions. He also noted that it is
important to have a Plan B for all the produce that is picked, in case it
Unexpected weather and the challenges that come with working
at a farmers market are worth it to Cooley and his family, who enjoy their job.
“My favorite part is our customers,” he said. “Seeing people
come back week to week, raving about what they got last week, telling you how
much they enjoy it.”
Cooley offered this advice to market shoppers: “Get to know
the growers and farmers. Ask questions. Ask how they grow things, if that’s
important to you. Ask what’s coming up. Just because you don’t see something on
the table today doesn’t mean we’re not going to have it.”
“A lot of people forget that it is not a grocery store.
We’re not going to have everything all year long,” he said. “We don’t have green
beans yet, but we’ll have them in June. We don’t have some things just because
of the weather this year.”
Nelson also shared her expertise on making the most out of
the shopping experience.
“There’s always a lot to see, no matter what farmers market
you go to,” she said.
“Talk to the farmers and growers and explore some new
things. There are a lot of great items we can grow because we have a great
climate in Indiana.
“There may be some fruits and veggies that you aren’t sure
what they are. Ask them about it, how to prepare it, and open your dinner table
and taste buds to new and exciting tastes.”
She mentioned that if you are hoping to find a pineapple or
bananas at an Indiana farmers market, you are out of luck. But shopping at
markets definitely has its good side.
“It is really important to be able to support your local
businesses,” Nelson said.
“Farmers are business owners. They need to be sustainable in
the community. It is a little different when you think of them being business
owners and not just farmers.”
For a directory of Indiana farmers markets, visit