Farmers market season coming soon (to a parking lot near you)

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The Muscatine Area Farmers Market opened their 19th year of business on Saturday. The market held their first event of the season on April 8. This is the first of many markets residents are welcome to attend.

Muscatine Area Farmers Market Board President Jennifer DeFosse and board member Millie Morris invite vendors to join the market and others to attend events and see what the market has to offer. “Anyone who is making something handcrafted or homegrown can be a vendor. We are always looking for new vendors,” said DeFosse. Morris added, “People can reimagine things, too. Repurposing and up-cycling is super encouraged.”

The Muscatine Area Farmers Market regularly features produce and baked goods, but some of their vendors sell more unique items. “Generally vendors have produce, baked goods, honey, or some amazing handcrafted items and the handcrafted items are sometimes something people wouldn’t expect. Things like goats milk soap or cement decorations,” said DeFosse. Morris mentioned that she’s purchased a planter made of a hollowed-out tree stump. Both Morris and DeFosse emphasized the creativity and talent of all the vendors.

For those concerned about food safety, DeFosse and Morris assure buyers that they take safety seriously and vendors are held to a high standard as well as Iowa’s strict food safety laws. DeFosse explains, “For produce, the State of Iowa offers Good Agricultural Practices Certification and that’s something we encourage our growers to be certified. We have strict regulations at the market because we don’t want anyone getting sick. As the Market Manager, I go around and check things like if a product is labeled correctly, because the state has strict guidelines and we stay up to date on that because it is very important.” Morris agreed, saying, “We have really made it a point to be proactive instead of reactive.”

The Muscatine Area Farmers Market is great for helping buyers live a healthy lifestyle. Morris said, “We do a lot of events throughout the year. We team with a lot of people like the Blue Zones Project or United Way and they come and do live cooking demos, and it’s often something you could buy at the market but you don’t know how to use.” Morris added that the vendors are great resources also. “That’s another thing that’s great about our vendors, too, is that they always have ideas, so if you walk up and think ‘I don’t know even know what that thing is,’ they’ll give you suggestions of two or three things you could make with it.”

Numerous times, DeFosse and Morris agreed that the Muscatine Area Farmers Market is special and unique. DeFosse said, “We have a smallish market but two years in a row, 2015 and 2016, our market was voted best in the state by American Farmland Trust in their annual Farmers Market Celebration.”

For those wondering why they should become a vendor, Morris and DeFosse feel the relationships built at the market is the best part. Morris said, “The market is as much of a community as it is a business, it’s a family.” DeFosse agreed with Morris and added, “We have a phenomenal market with really talented people working together. It really is a market family; everyone is supportive and helping each other, and we have an awesome community that supports it and believes in shopping small.”

For more information or to inquire about becoming a vendor, find Muscatine Area Farmers Market on Facebook.