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Rooted in the community: Vendors preparing for opening of 20th annual Zionsville Farmers’ Market

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Judy Woodburn pauses in her Noblesville garden, where she has grown produce for all 20 seasons of the Zionsville Farmers’ Market. (Photo by Lisa Price)

By Heather Lusk

Two decades ago, a small group came together to create a farmers’ market in Zionsville.

“I had a vegetable garden but realized I’d rather go to a farmers’ market than grow my own,” said Barb Munson, who presented the idea to the Zionsville Town Council in January 1997. “It was approved, and boom, all of a sudden it’s February and growers have already planned what they’re going to grow.”

Because there were few farmers’ markets at the time, Munson said she was able to find 19 vendors to sell produce and flowers.

This year, 45 venders will offer fruits and vegetables, along with a wide variety of meats, pasta, peanut butter, shrimp, cheese and honey. Visitors can grab baked goods, coffee or prepared items for breakfast while they shop. Besides edible wares, other vendors sell a range of plants, from perennials to vegetables.

“We want it to be a cook’s market,” Market Master Sara Martini said. “That’s our philosophy. You can find ingredients you need to make dinner that night.”

Mike and Judy Woodburn have been selling their produce in Zionsville since opening day 20 years ago.

The Zionsville Farmers’ Market will return May 13. (Submitted photo)

“Within the first couple of hours I sold out and could have sold more,” said Judy, a Noblesville resident who also sells pasta and honey at the booth.

Six new vendors will join the market this year selling eggs, bacon, produce and Wagyu beef.

Martini said the market is at capacity, and organizers are not planning to add more booths.

“We value quality vendors over quantity,” she said.

Elizabeth Hermann, who has been selling items at the market since 1998, appreciates Zionsville’s market size.

“Vendors start struggling when it gets too big,” she said. “Zionsville just does a really good job.”

Initial restrictions ensured that produce was grown by the seller versus importing products. While ensuring a quality product, it also requires the farmers to plan what they will sell for the following year soon after the market ends.

“We start making financial decisions about what we’re going to grow and how much in the fall,” Hermann said.

Managing the market

The market is managed by a volunteer board of directors, with a volunteer music coordinator and paid market master, who manages the vendors and event each week.

Jane Smith, one of the original committee members, said the initial group handled all volunteer duties the first year before the role of market master was established.

“We realized we needed someone to be responsible for Saturday mornings,” said Smith, who was the first to hold the role, which began as a volunteer position.

For the past 10 years, the market master has been a paid position because the committee recognized the amount of time the job required.

“When we paid the market master, that’s when we started to expand what we were doing,” committee member Ellen Butz said. That’s around the time that the market began selling T-shirts at cost with witticisms such as ‘The Beet Goes On’ and ‘Give Peas a Chance’ to help advertise.”

Making connections

Rumors have swirled about the future of the market’s location with the possibility of the town selling the parking lot that has been the market’s home for 20 years. The town purchased the property in 2013 to maintain control over the intersections around Sycamore, Main and First streets and Zionsville Road.

The Zionsville Farmers’ Market will return May 13. (Submitted photo)

Amanda Dorman, director of communications and community relations for Zionsville, said there are no plans to do anything with the site beyond current operations.

The market has always been in the parking lot at the corner of Main and Hawthorne streets, an ideal spot from the perspective of the first Farmers’ Market committee.

“It was the fact of Main Street being such an integral part of Zionsville’s character, right there at one of the entrances of Zionsville,” Munson said. “We were embraced by (local businesses), particularly after the first season.”

The market is a boon to merchants, bringing visitors to Main Street on Saturdays, and many businesses take advantage of the additional customers.

“So many downtowns are dead,” Smith said. “But Zionsville is pretty bustling on Saturday mornings, and that’s nice.”

Main Street business owner and original committee member Drew Kogan agrees.

“It’s fun to see people out and about,” he said. “It brings local people back downtown.”

“We just want Main Street to be lively. We want the community to connect,” Martini said. “That’s what the market is all about, connecting farmers, the community and our neighbors.”

The market is open every Saturday beginning May 13 from 8 until 11 a.m. through September.

2017 Zionsville Farmers’ Market Special Events

  • May 13 – Boone County Master Gardeners will provide pots, plants and soil to teach children about planting
  • May 27 – Bike to Market day
  • June 3 – Strawberry Shortcake Day – free to all visitors
  • June 17 – Boone County Indiana Farm Bureau will present varieties of corn and the uses of corn in food products
  • August 12 – National Farmers’ Market Week with a free cooking utensil to early customers
  • All season – Limited-edition T-shirts: Rooted in the community for 20 years

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