The farmers market scene continues to grow in the Wichita area, with the Kansas Grown market at the Extension Center already filled up with vendors, and Lincoln Heights Village adding a Wednesday evening market starting next week.
Food trucks at the west-side and Kechi markets, and occasional children’s cooking classes and yoga sessions at the Old Town market also are new for 2016. The Old Town farmers market opens May 7. The Kansas Grown market has been open for a month.
“Normally our vendor count and customer count starts out slowly, and then the first of May it really takes off to the moon,” said Jim Beyers of the Kansas Grown market. “What was unusual this year, the first weekend, April 2, we were totally maxed out on vendor stalls right out of the chute.”
One example of fresh produce tells the growing tale.
“I would say this last weekend there were more different vendors selling more asparagus than I ever recall seeing, so if someone wants asparagus, this is the time to get it,” extension agent Rebecca McMahon said.
What is not returning this year is a Thursday evening market at Normandie Center at Central and Woodlawn.
Lincoln Heights Village will have a Wednesday evening market in addition to its Wednesday morning market at Douglas and Oliver. The later time frame is in response to demands from both sellers and consumers, manager Brent Allison, owner of Extraordinaire Salon & Boutique, said.
“The vendors also do markets elsewhere, and they’re always complaining about how dang hot it is,” Allison said of the Wednesday morning market. Then from customers “we hear it all the time: ‘I can’t make it in the morning, I wish it was in the evening.’ Hopefully we can make it a go.”
The evening market will be set up like a sidewalk sale at the shopping center: The vendors will be under the shade of the canopy facing east. “They won’t have to set up their own canopies, so it’ll be easier set-up and take-down,” Allison said.
“Hopefully that’ll drive a little more traffic up to the stores. And make it more bearable.” It will also keep the honey, jellies and baked goods out of the sun, he said.
Allison said there is still some space available for vendors. Six to eight vendors normally are at the market, and at least a couple of farmers won’t come on board until June, when farmers markets normally explode with produce.
Even now, there is produce to be had at the Kansas Grown market, McMahon said.
“There’s plenty of asparagus, lettuces, spinach, salad mixes, leafy green stuff, some radishes. There are a few vendors of carrots that overwintered, green onions, that sort of thing. I would imagine the next few weeks would see a few more things too.”
The Kansas Grown market in Derby will open May 7, and Kechi will be back with a market and a food truck starting in June, on Thursday evenings.
At the Saturday morning market at the Extension, “I think we’re around – I’m going to be conservative – 146 (vendors) this year,” Beyers said. “It’s getting very snug, very snug.” Part of the parking lot may get paved in the future for expansion, extension agent Rebecca McMahon said. And some of the Kansas Grown vendors will be at the GreenAcres market on Tuesday afternoons or the Derby market instead on Saturday morning, Beyers said.
“I think that Derby market’s gonna have another growth spurt this year. Last year their market was up 41 percent,” at 15 vendors, he said.
More baked goods, food trucks
The Old Town market will be back May 7 with about 55 vendors, a chef’s table, music, and crafts for kids. New this year will be a kids’ cooking class at 9 a.m. the second Saturday of every month, and yoga classes on some mornings, said manager Pat Randleas. Dates will be listed on the market’s Facebook page.
At the Kansas Grown market, in addition to produce, meats and jellies, “we’ll probably have a greater number of baked-good vendors this year,” Beyers said. “That’s probably the No. 1 category which has really jumped up this year in terms of vendors. We see a mixture of cinnamon rolls and cookies – several new cookie vendors this year.”
Another new thing at the Kansas Grown market: “We’re incorporating food truck vendors. We started that last week. They must have done well, because both of them came back in. ... So far we’ve had pulled pork, gravy and biscuits: For my personal viewpoint I could not wait for him to open his truck – the Gravy Wagon.”
This week will see the Squat and Gobble serving hillbilly hash for breakfast and barbecue for lunch. “That’s the honest-to-gosh truth. … He sent me his proof of insurance,” Beyers said.
The number of musicians also is going to be increasing from one to sometimes two or three different acts in different areas of the market, he said.
“It might be a pretty good year for everybody,” Beyers said.
Here's when to find produce at farmers markets. Weather and other factors can affect timing and availability.
Early May: Arugula, asparagus, lettuce, radishes, spinach, chard, kale, green onions, green garlic, greenhouse tomatoes
Mid-May: Arugula, collards, lettuce, radishes, green onions, spinach, chard, kale, greenhouse tomatoes
Late May: Arugula, collards, lettuce, green onions, spinach, strawberries, chard, kale, greenhouse tomatoes
Early June: Arugula, collards, broccoli, lettuce, green onions, onions, peas, spinach, strawberries, turnips, garlic, chard, kale, greenhouse tomatoes
Late June: Beans, cabbage, chard, kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, garlic, green onions, peas, turnips, beets, cherries, greenhouse tomatoes, high-tunnel tomatoes
Early July: Beans, cabbage, chard, kale, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, summer squash, cucumbers, potatoes, onions, okra, sweet corn, turnips, beets, peaches, blackberries, tomatoes
Late July: Beans, cabbage, chard, carrots, cucumbers, eggplant, melons, okra, onions, sweet corn, summer squash, tomatoes, peaches, blackberries
August: Beans, cucumbers, chard, eggplant, melons, peppers, okra, onions, sweet corn, winter squash, tomatoes, pears, peaches, apples
Early September: Arugula, beans, chard, eggplant, melons, peppers, onions, sweet corn, winter squash, tomatoes, pears, apples, peaches
Late September-early October: Arugula, beans, cabbage, chard, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, kale, lettuce, spinach, kale, peppers, radishes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, turnips, pears, apples.
Where the markets are
Kansas Grown, 7 a.m. to noon, 7001 W. 21st St. (at Ridge Road); kansasgrowninc.com, Kansas Grown Farmers Market on Facebook
Old Town, 7 a.m. to noon, 150 N. Mosley; www.oldtownfarmersmarket.com, Old Town Farmers Market on Facebook
Derby Kansas Grown, 7 a.m. to noon starting May 7, 611 N. Mulberry in Derby
Kansas Grown at GreenAcres, 3 to 6:30 p.m., 21st and Rock Road in Bradley Fair
Lincoln Heights, 7 to 11 a.m. and 3 to 7 p.m., Douglas and Oliver
Kechi, 4 to 6:30 p.m. starting June through September, United Methodist Church at 4533 E. 61st St. North; sponsored by the Kechi Chamber of Commerce
How to shop
Most markets accept credit and debit cards, either in individual vendor booths, or at their information booths, where the cards can be used to buy tokens for spending with all the vendors.
The Old Town and Kansas Grown markets have Facebook pages listing updates of what's going on each week.