Rain or Shine: Fort Ben Farmers Market kicks off summer season


As the first Fort Ben Farmers Market of the season opened June 1, Cameron Heneghan led her way to the booths, rubbing a thick layer of sunscreen on her face and waiting as patiently as a 4-year-old can while her grandfather stopped to chat with friends along the way.

“I like the farmers market,” Heneghan said. “I buy all kinds of food.”

“We come here every Thursday,” her grandfather, Jim Henaghan, said. “This is our date every Thursday. I brought her in one time, and she doesn’t forget it.”

Fort Ben Farmers Market at 8920 Otis Ave. in Lawrence takes place every Thursday afternoon, rain or shine, now through early October. The market has grown over the past few years, with more customers, more vendors and more attractions.

Market organizer Damaris Iraheta said the Fort Ben Farmers Market started in 2017 in response to some area grocery stores closing. It had about a dozen vendors at the time, and took place at the Civic Plaza. In 2022, it moved to the Cultural Campus, where it expanded to 40 vendors.

“Events such as back to school vaccines, Fall Fest, yoga and live music have been added to make a fun and interactive space,” Iraheta said. “We strive to make the Fort Ben Farmers Market a place to shop, dine and spend quality time. We also believe in the importance of adding a variety of options when it comes to vendors at the market.”

She said the weekly event is more than a farmers market; it’s a community resource for residents and an attraction for visitors.

The first market of the year took place on a hot, sunny afternoon. Most of the booth holders had tents for shade, but a few hardy souls sat without protection from the bright sunshine. Vendors offered fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh-cut flowers, home-grown mushrooms, locally produced honey, crafts, food and drinks, and apparel.

Korka Diatta sat under a canopy behind a table filled with her colorful wares. The selection included wide-brimmed sun hats, bucket hats, T-shirts, hand-held fans and other accessories, all in bright colors and patterns.

Diatta said this is her first year selling at the Lawrence farmers market.

“I just wanted to try it out,” she said. “I visited the farmers market before and saw beautiful things so I said maybe I can share my stuff to see if people might be interested.”

Her items are handmade by herself and others, she said, and she named her business, Kankou Elegance, after her mother. So far, she said, it’s going OK.

“It’s the first day,” she said. “I’m not expecting much, but it’s a good environment.”

Adding to the environment were the strains of acoustic cover tunes by Indianapolis duo Traci and Jimmy, heard throughout the Fort Ben Cultural Campus where about 40 booths lined the paved pathways. The market has a different musical group performing throughout the event each week, along with food trucks and seating for those who want to grab a bite to eat — like an ice cream doughnut — and take a break from shopping.

Baked goods and popcorn are among the items available, along with homemade jams, pet products, jewelry and natural soaps.

One booth offered Tony’s Boss Sauce, an Indianapolis-made barbecue sauce, in hot and sweet varieties. Tony Watts, the booth holder and business owner, gave out samples of both, starting with the hot.

“You’re going to get a little sweet flavor first, and then you’re going to feel the burn,” he said. “You feel the heat coming? It sneaks up on you.”

It certainly does.

“Try a little sweet,” he said, offering a new sample. “Even kids love my sweet sauce. You can put your sweet in your baked beans if you like to make baked beans or like to make meatballs.”

A full list of market vendors and a site map, updated each week, is available at visitlawrenceindiana.com/events/fbfarmermarket/ Some vendors are there every week, and others have signed up for a partial season. Visitors also can look up the weekly performers scheduled for the main stage and the calendar for special offerings, such as yoga and fitness classes. Food assistance programs, such as SNAP and Fresh Bucks, are accepted for approved items.

The Fort Ben Farmers Market allows pets on leashes, and the Fort Ben Cultural Campus is ADA accessible.

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Korka Diatta, owner of Kankau Elegance,
has had her business five years. This is the first year she is selling her wares at the Fort Ben Farmers Market. (Photo by Adam Seif)

Farmers market program encourages young entrepreneurs

Sprouts at the Fort Ben Farmers Market is a program that allows children ages 5 through 17 an opportunity to have a one-day booth for a reduced fee of $10 per space to sell products that are handmade, hand-crafted or hand produced.

According to the City of Lawrence website, food can be sold at the market, but it is limited to popcorn, snow cones, pretzels, cotton candy, lemonade and prepackaged cookies.

“As market vendors for a day, Sprouts (participants) will practice basic skills of product development, marketing, sales and customer service,” the website states. “With help from the adults, Sprouts should develop a business storefront and signage for their booth space, label, price their products legibly, and create simple but attractive product displays.”

Sprouts vendors are responsible for providing all necessary booth equipment, such as a tent, tables and chairs. Booths must always be staffed, and adult supervision is required. Sprouts participants must set up and clean up up their own booth space.

For more, email [email protected] or visit visitlawrenceindiana.com/events/fbfarmermarket/fm-involve/fm-sprouts/