Ames farmers markets: Too many choices?


Photo: Kelsey Kremer/Iowa State

Jon Lynch and Lonna Nachtigal, of Onion Creek Farms, organize their goods at the Ames Famer’s Market on Saturday, Aug. 27. The Ames Farmer’s Market hosts a variety of stands, all of local flavor.  

Alexander Furman

For the second year in a row, there will be three farmers markets in Ames. The Ames Farmers’ Market, Main Street Market and North Grand Farmers’ Market each boast a colorful lineup of vendors and events. 

The Main Street Market received much acclaim last year as a new project in downtown Ames. This year, the Ames Chamber of Commerce approved significantly more funding for the project, so there will be a many new vendors.

“These efforts were really in response to years of requests from Ames-area residents who know Ames is the kind of town that should have a diverse, abundant and really fun farmers market,” said Main Street Cultural District Executive Director Tom Drenthe in a news release. “A lot of work was involved, but we are delighted that the market was well-received in its inaugural year.” 

Opening day is May 5, with a ribbon cutting, Ames Public Library Book Mobile, live music at Tom Evans Plaza and much more, said event coordinator Mandy McWherter. Going along with bolstered funding from Ames Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Main Street Market is doubling its season from three months last year to six months. Six months is considered a normal season for markets.

The North Grand Farmers’ Market will be continuing its tradition of having the market for the regular season, with more than 20 vendors currently. It begins its season in May and runs through October. Unlike Main Street, this market offer a special indoors vendor service that takes place February through April, then moving outside. North Grand vendors have taken pride in being able to say that all of their products are truly grown locally here in Story County, the criteria being that items sold are by the vendor or their immediate family.

The third market in town, the Ames Farmers’ Market, will be marking its 35th year this season. The Ames and North Grand farmers markets used to be one, but split their membership several years ago. 

All three farmers markets have no immediate interest to join forces in the foreseeable future. For the past 35 years, North Grand and Ames have been doing well on their own after the split, with the newly created Main Street Market growing up and becoming a much-wanted downtown public event.

All three markets have a fair amount of diversity looking past just the produce. North Grand features hayrides and bonfires courtesy of one of its oldest vendors. Main Street has musicians, artists and workshops each week. And the Ames Market, the oldest in town, brings tours of heritage and has homemade baked goods every weekend.