Saturday, May 7, 2016

Farmers Market comes to Garfield Park

Saturday was launch day for the weekly Garfield Park Farmers Market, a proud moment for the Garfield Park community on the Southside of Indianapolis.

I didn't get to the market until a little after 11 a.m. (it opened at 9), but there was a steady stream of traffic, and the allotted parking area was nearly filled. I could see spillover vehicles parked in the public lot across Southern Avenue in front of the Baptist church, too.

The market was to remain open until 12:30, but several vendors had to pack up early because they sold out. Another vendor -- D & S Kettle Corn -- had to shut down very early because the generator they used to power the popcorn-maker ran out of gas. I have to admit I have a weakness for kettle corn, so I was disappointed I couldn't purchase a couple of big bags to take home. The vendors were kind enough to pour a little bit of what they had left into a paper cone for me to sample, and it was good.

I have been a fan of community farmers markets for more than a decade, and I trace my enthusiasm to my first visit to the farmers market in downtown Indianapolis 15 years ago or so.

In the last decade or so of my long career in the newsroom of The Indianapolis Star, I compiled a massive list of all the farmers markets I knew about in the Indy metropolitan area, and frequently used that list to fill space in the community newspapers The Star published in the early 2000s through about 2011 or so. I can remember there being farmers markets in Broad Ripple, Carmel, Fishers, Franklin, Greenwood, Greenfield, Noblesville and Shelbyville in addition to Indianapolis, and that's just to name a few.

In the past couple years, Lee Ann got me hooked on the Fishers market, which had a wide range of vendors ... including a kettle corn station. Yeah, I visited it a few times. They also had a vendor who sold freshly made fried egg rolls (very popular), a very large variety of fruits and vegetables, corn on the cob (very popular), frozen yogurt, freshly baked pies and specialty spices and herbs.

The GPFM was the brainchild of Garfield Park community neighbors Julia Woody and Ashley Brooks, and I have to believe it came to life last year on those Saturdays when South Circle Farm saw a steady stream of traffic stop in at its modest veggies and plant stand along South Meridian Street. Lee Ann and I stopped in there on quite a few occasions, and I started wondering back then myself whether something more expansive -- like we had enjoyed in Fishers and downtown Indy -- could happen in Garfield Park. When I heard late last year that South Circle Farm and Big City Farms were joining to make exactly that happen, I was pretty thrilled.

For Saturday's launch, vendors set up on the eastern-most section of the parking lot west of the tennis courts (which are on the southeast corner of the park) and south of the conservatory. Volunteers helped guide visitors to park in the remaining spaces in that parking lot. And while the lot was mostly filled when I walked to the market, there always seemed to be someone leaving to open a spot for a newly arriving visitor.

For those unfamiliar with where everything is at Garfield Park, the parking lot where the market is held is best accessible from the park's Southern Avenue entrance, which is between Napoleon Street and Allen Avenue. That point is about two and a half blocks west of the intersection of Southern and Shelby Street. If you're coming from the east on Southern, you'll see the market vendors before you reach the park entrance.

In addition to the GPFM website link I provided above, you can connect with Garfield Park Farmers Market on Facebook, Twitter (@GarfieldParkMkt) and Instagram (@garfieldfarmersmarket). Coincidentally, I met Katie, the person who handles the market's Twitter account, on the walk home from my visit today. It turns out she lives at the end of the block I live on.

Above: Looking east toward the parking area, with vendors set up to the far right. Behind them are Garfield Park's tennis courts.  

Above: I was looking forward to D&S's Kettle Corn, but the generator powering the popcorn-making machine had run out of fuel by the time I arrived. One of the stand operators was on the phone, trying to see if she could find someone to bring her more fuel.  

Above and below: Bee Coffee's very popular coffee stand.  

Above and below: Becker Farms of Mooreland, one of two meat stands at the market. The other was Heritage Meadows Farm of Clayton.

Above and below: The booth operated by Wildflower Ridge Honey, Anderson. 

Above: Operators of the Risin' Creek Creamery (Martinsville) booth.  

Above: Major drivers of the opening of Garfield Park Farmers Market were South Circle Farm and Big City Farms

Above: Slide Cat Royal provided musical entertainment for the launch of the market.  

Above: Volunteers included market co-founders Julia Woody (far left) and Ashley Brooks (far right).

Above: The Schact Farms (Bloomington) booth. 

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