Wichita-area farmers markets include new one at Douglas and Oliver open on Wednesday mornings

05/18/2012 7:32 AM

05/18/2012 7:32 AM

Bonnie Kissinger has a new Wednesday morning routine.

“I was just thinking I needed to put it in my iPhone as a reminder every week: yoga class, farmers market,” Kissinger said as she shopped just after 9 a.m. at the new weekly farmers market at Douglas and Oliver, in the parking lot of Lincoln Heights Village shopping center.

Coffee cups, doughnuts and grocery bags in hand, shoppers at the market paused at booths selling fresh vegetables, potted herbs, honey, barbecue sauce and raised garden beds complete with plants, soil and, if you need it, installation.

“They’re real, real, real, real local growers,” said Mary Wheeler, who lives in College Hill and walks over to the market. “They have interesting things like compost. We appreciate that.”

A farmers market on a weekday morning is a new thing for Wichita, as is a market in College Hill – a walkable destination for a walking neighborhood. It’s part of the continuing expansion of the buy-local movement, which is getting ever more local for Wichita and surrounding communities.

Breaking out of the Saturday-morning farmers-market routine, the growth not only gives people greater access to fresh, local produce, it’s bringing people outside and neighbors together, and it’s giving growers more access to customers, organizers say.

“On the weekends in the early mornings ... it’s crazy to get out of the house,” said Natalie Fullerton, coordinator of Our Local Food-South Central Kansas. The organization is in its second year of trying to bring local food growers, retailers and customers together in the area.

“I’m definitely excited about the weekday markets.”

Another new market in Wichita this spring is at Normandie Center at Central and Woodlawn, open from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesdays. Operated by the folks from the Old Town farmers market, it takes the place of the market that was held the past few years in Andover’s Central Park.

“Although we had a beautiful location in Andover, it was too far off the beaten path to sustain us,” market manager Pat Randleas said. “This is much better. There are more vendors, more customers, and it’s been well received by the community.”

Kristi Ivy started the Lincoln Heights market. Her parents own Extraordinaire Salon in the shopping center, and she’s a master gardener.

“I always loved growing my own produce, then last year the Lincoln Heights board members were brainstorming,” she said. “They thought it might be cool to sell produce for the local area. I jumped on board.”

Ivy is so encouraged by the traffic in the market’s first few weeks that she’s looking for a second neighborhood location. The market is planning to have a kids day June 6 featuring puppies from the Kansas Humane Society – locally grown produce, locally grown pets.

“We can’t do anything real big in the center because we can’t close down the parking lot,” Ivy said. “We really encourage people to bring their own bags and also to walk to the center if at all possible. It keeps it flowing, and it gets people outside.”

Another neighborhood market in Wichita is in its third year in Delano, at 200 S. Walnut, behind the Downtown Senior Center. People walk over from home, or stop by when they close up their shops or head home from work downtown.

“The long-term goal is for us to get in a better location that’s more visible,” manager Jim Martinson said.

Farmers markets in surrounding towns also are gathering places for the community. The market in Cheney, which is open from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Second and Main streets, is doing several things to encourage that.

“This year we added a booth in the shade where people can sit down at picnic tables and talk,” market manager Sean Kelley said.

“It just seems like the market has become the center. People love to go down there and meet up with old friends.”

Once a month there’s music, usually from high school students, and nonprofits such as the 4-H can have fundraisers such as bake sales there. In association with Johnson’s Garden Centers, the market is giving out reusable market bags this year.

If you haven’t been out to a market yet, be aware that crops are coming in earlier this year.

“The produce has been flying fast and furious with the warm spring,” extension agent Rebecca McMahon said. “Last weekend I bought all the vegetables I needed for the week. That’s certainly not the first time that’s happened but probably the earliest that’s happened.”

Dana and David Manda of Verdant Farm, who sell at Lincoln Heights and at 21st and Ridge on Saturday mornings, have these items on their produce list this week: spinach, lettuce, broccoli, green and red scallions, Swiss chard, French Breakfast and Easter Egg radishes, Chioggia and Golden beets, multicolored carrots and purple-top turnips.

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