For those looking for locally grown produce, Topeka and the surrounding area will teem with life in April and May.
April is not too early for farmers markets to thrive. In addition to lettuce, radishes, kale, spinach, herbs and other cool weather crops, appetizers for plants such as tomatoes and pansies, honey, farm-fresh eggs and meat will be there.
Pastries and crafts will also be available.
Here are several options.
Bread Basket Farmer’s Market
A new location is sprouting up out west. The Breadbasket Farmers Market will bloom from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays starting April 2 in the parking lot southeast of the Furniture Mall of Kansas, 1901 SW Wanamaker Road.
It will be open until November 19, a few days before Thanksgiving.
For manager Mary Tyler, former vendor and manager of the Downtown Farmers Market, it’s a dream come true.
“I always wanted, and thought it would be a good idea, to have a market on the southwest side,” she said. Tyler’s dream began to take hold after meeting a 9-year-old vendor who ran a stall a few years ago downtown.
“There was a little girl (who was selling mini Bundt cakes), and I took care of that little girl,” Tyler said. “Her father contacted my husband and said, ‘The way Mary has taken care of this little girl. She needs to have her own market.’ And thanks to this little girl, this market is coming to fruition.”
This dream is about to bear fruit in more ways than one. Tyler will be running a booth called “Kan You Say Oh Yum” in addition to his other duties.
“The way I got that name is when my kids were little, I would hand them a cookie and say, ‘Can you tell? and I was pausing, and they were like, ‘Oh yum!’ The K in “Kan” was a substitution after they moved to Kansas from Delaware.
Nothing she carries has been frozen or refrigerated. “If the cherries are in season, you get fresh cherry pie, and if the rhubarb is in season, you get rhubarb pie. I only use fresh fruit.”
Tyler buys his products only from local producers. “I’m just a big fan of the local. You know, help the little person. We’re all trying to make it happen,” she said.
Because local items are such a priority, Tyler only accepts produce grown within 150 miles and no food resale is allowed. “There are no Georgia peaches,” she said.
The Double Up Food Bucks program, which doubles the amount of produce Snap Card users receive when they purchase up to $25, is accepted in the marketplace. It also accepts the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which works the same way.
• Also, another new indoor option that debuted in January is the Farmers & Makers Market, open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the third Saturday of each month in the building adjacent to the Topeka Vendors Market, 520 SE Adams.
Downtown Topeka Farmer’s Market
The Downtown Topeka Farmers Market, in the Judicial Center parking lot between 10th and 12th Streets, Topeka Boulevard and Jackson Avenue, has been thriving since the 1930s. It also begins its season from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. pm on Saturdays starting April 2 and also accepts the SNAP Product Program.
On its website is a Kansas Fruit and Vegetable Availability Guide that offers information on the best time to find specific types of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Saleswoman Janice Hollander, owner of Country Greenhouse, 17080 246th Road, east of Holton, has been an integral part of this market for over 20 years.
She also sells items in her greenhouse and started out selling roadside produce before becoming a vendor at a farmers market.
Hollander’s green thumb developed after his grandmother showed him how to grow houseplants: “I just thought that was the most interesting thing, that you could take a leaf out of a plant and make a new one. So I told my parents when I was in high school that I wanted a greenhouse, and they thought it was just some kid thing I was going to grow out of.”
No real training was available, she said, except for business and home economics. She also put to good use the skills she learned growing up on a farm. It took her years to get to where she is today.
After working part-time “for fun” in a greenhouse, Hollander bought one. This number has increased to six. Another style, with a high tunnel, will soon allow him to grow produce in the ground all year round. That will make seven of these buildings when all is said and done.
Hollander also has outdoor beds and grows over 5,000 types of tomatoes. It cultivates 50,000 to 60,000 plant species. You could say his specialty is variety.
On April 2, it will mainly offer starter plants for vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, onion sets, seed potatoes and herbs. Hollander also plans to bring hanging baskets of cherry tomatoes, which already contain marble-sized fruit and flowers in pots. There will also be plenty of flower beds.
Double Up Food Bucks can be used to produce starter plants, she said.
As the growing season progresses, customers can expect its offerings to explode in variations, including a wide range of fruits. This year, she is even trying grapefruit.
Hollander has candy for the kids, treats for dogs and cats, and field corn to feed the squirrels. She recommended a simple, inexpensive feeder.
“All I do is put a nail in the side of a tree and stick the corncob to the end of the nail,” she said. “They sit on the ear of corn and eat the kernels.”
Hollander and her husband will have stalls at markets in downtown and western Topeka.
Monday farmer’s market at your library
The Monday Farmers Market @ Your Library will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. May 9 through October 3, excluding Memorial and Labor Days, in the Topeka County Public Library parking lot and Shawnee at 1515 SW 10th Ave.
The market focuses on providing healthy food. Along with produce, it offers products such as pickles and relishes, barbecue sauce, cage-free eggs, Kansas wheat baked goods, and bedding plants. Due to its small size, it does not offer crafting.
Events coordinator Bonnie Cuevas said the market is focused on the needs of her community.
“We try to help support the local economy and bring fresh vegetables and other produce to the neighborhood,” she said.
“When Dillons Grocery (1400 SW Huntoon Ave.) closed, it created this food desert they talk about,” Cuevas said. “It was so appreciated by these people that they set their alarm clock to get here at 7:30 a.m. to have their first pick in these things because they don’t have their local grocery store anymore.”
This market also offers food for the mind, with a book cart full of 25-cent books and children’s activities.
Once the children created plant holders out of paper towels and filled them with soil and sunflower seeds. Instruction sheets for caring for the seedlings were sent home and several of the children became successful growers.
“What was fun was the kids would come back and say to us, ‘It grew! ‘” Cuevas said.
Sellers and customers all seem to know each other now, she said.
Maybe this market also offers food in mind.
The library is working to join SNAP’s Double Up Food Bucks, and Cuevas said she hopes it will be ready for consumers by May 9.
Burlingame Farmers Market
Located in Sumner City Park, 127 W. Seward Ave. in Burlingame, this market is held on Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. starting May 5.
Over its five-year history, it has had its ups and downs (mainly due to COVID-19). Last year it started to rebound, with up to eight vendors and an average of 80-100 visitors per day.
At just $10 a pop for a seller to participate in an entire season, the market is loosely structured. Sellers chat with each other often, and those interested in joining the group can drop by the same day or call (785) 422-1689.
However, “we have a rule that 90% of what vendors sell must be made,” manager Tim Shepard said.
Young sellers are attracted to the event. “They try to learn more about business and marketing products,” he said.
Visitors should remember to bring cash, as most vendors don’t have credit card sliders. Additionally, the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program is in place for vendors who have the ability to swipe cards.
Perry Lecompton Farmers Market
The Perry Lecompton Farmers Market will be held from 4-6:30 p.m. on Fridays beginning April 29 in the parking lot of Bernie’s Cenex Station, 2115 Ferguson Road in Perry. How long that lasts will depend on the kindness of Mother Nature.
Weather permitting, it will be open until mid-October. “It’s just kind of a game by ear,” manager Eric Youngquist said.
This market is more of an incubator for local sellers, he said. There are usually between six and eight. Some also participate in other markets on Saturdays.
This market has a fun and laid back atmosphere. Food is available at Bernie’s, and Youngquist takes and posts photos every Friday so people can see what’s in stock.
Vendors with Ukrainian, Bulgarian and Mexican ties shared their traditional products here. “Our small market is international,” he said.
Gardeners who just want to get rid of the extra produce and people who want to try something new find this place to be the perfect place to sell their wares.
Youngquist offers beginner sellers tips on completing the forms needed to be successful.
A salesperson who made face masks at the start of the pandemic found the business particularly rewarding. Youngquist found out when he got a call thanking him. “They sold enough masks to earn enough money to buy a new sewing machine,” he said.
When a seller gets too busy with other markets, he says goodbye with mixed feelings: “We’ll miss you, but that’s great news,” Youngquist said.
Learn more about the SNAP double-up program.
Learn more about the senior program.