Dining With Denise Neil

Farmers market season gets going Saturday in Wichita: Asparagus now, tomatoes later

The Old Town Farmers' Market opens for its outdoor season on Saturday.
The Old Town Farmers' Market opens for its outdoor season on Saturday.

Winter is over, even if Mother Nature didn't get the memo.

And when winter ends, farmers market season starts in Wichita.

One of Wichita's two biggest outdoor markets — The Old Town Farmers' Market — returns for its outdoor season on Saturday morning. The other — the Kansas Grown Farmers Market at the Sedgwick County Extension Center at 21st and Ridge Road — officially returned three weeks ago, though Saturday will be its first outing without frigid temperatures. (Though it's likely to be raining , the forecast says.)

Both markets have new vendors this year, and both will run through late October. Be aware, shoppers: Tomatoes won't be plentiful until later in the summer, and in the early weeks, the farmers will have mostly items like lettuce and asparagus.

Here's a look at what shoppers can expect at Wichita's farmers markets this year.

Old Town Farmers' Market

7 a.m. to noon, Saturdays through Oct. 27, Old Town Farm & Art Market, First and Mosley

This is the second year that this popular market will be operating under its new managers, Luke and Amy Snow, who last year launched an effort to make it more farmer-centric, more vegetable-focused.

That effort continues this year, Luke Snow said.

"We're focused on farmers first, and we'll have significantly more farmers this year and some interesting artisan vendors," he said. "Realistically, we are all about the arts, but we are primarily a farmers market, and so that is really our focus."

One addition he's excited about, he said, is a new "pop-up farm-to-table eatery." It'll be called In Season Bistro, and it will be set up in the center of the market each week. The bistro, which will allow shoppers to sit down and enjoy a meal made primarily from ingredients sourced at the market, will be staffed by a chef and will always feature a breakfast burrito, a different grass-fed burger and a few other "hyper-seasonal" dishes.

This year, Snow made the market a year-round affair, opening Saturdays throughout the winter inside Distillery 244 in Old Town. That's when he first tried out the bistro idea, and it worked, he said.

As the season progresses, the market will have a little more than 80 vendors set up and selling. Around 58 should be there for opening weekend, he said.

Kansas Grown Farmers Market

7 a.m. to noon, Saturdays through Oct. 27, 7001 W. 21st St. N.

The popular west-side market, now in its 28th year, has been up and running for a few weeks, but the unseasonable cold has made it miserable.

Jim Beyers, the president of the market's board of directors, said he hopes this rain will stay away long enough on Saturday to give it a real start.

"If history repeats itself, which it usually does, these next two weekends, the customer traffic should begin to swing up," he said.

The market will have some new produce vendors this year, he said, and it will also have its usual lineup of people selling baked goods and jams and jellies.

The market has several special Saturdays on the calendar, including Tomato Day, which last year drew 7,000 people — a big increase over the 4,500 who attend on a typical Saturday. This year, the tomato festival will be on Saturday, July 28.

They'll also put on a Kids Day on June 2, and Herb Day is on May 5.

On a typical Saturday, Beyers said, the market will have between 90 and 105 vendors, including four grass-fed beef vendors and eight selling farm-fresh eggs.

Growers who have heated greenhouses will have tomatoes starting at the first of May, Beyers said. In early June, growers with unheated greenhouses will have their tomato crops. Field-grown tomatoes usually show up after July 4.

"I think it's going to be a good season as soon as this weather straightens out," Beyers said.

Other farmers markets

Kansas Grown at Whole Foods, 1423 N. Webb: This is a new location for the market, which will run Wednesdays from 3 to 6 p.m. starting on May 2. The 21st and Amidon market isn't happening this year.

Kansas Grown in Derby: Another offshoot of the Kansas Grown market happens from 7 to noon Saturdays starting May 5 at Madison Avenue Central Park, 512 Madison in Derby.

Green Acres Market, Bradley Fair: This store's market happens from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays from May 1 through Aug. 25.

Lincoln Heights Farmers Market: This one runs from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday mornings from May through October at the shopping center at Douglas and Oliver.

Cheney Farmers Market: This market runs from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays from May through September. Its at Second and Main in Cheney.

Haysville Hometown Market: This market is open from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturdays from June 17 through Sept. 2 at 100 S. Main in Haysville.

(FILE VIDEO - JUNE 16, 2017) Elderslie Farm near Valley Center is hosting farm-to-table dinners on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights in June and July.

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