If anything is clear about the many different farmers markets found in the state of Iowa, it’s that they offer much more than just fresh food options and home-baked goods. The markets in Iowa all offer a little slice of life and a touch of the community they find themselves in. Whether that is through live music, local vendors or just friendly faces, attending a farmers market in Iowa is much more than just a thing to do, it’s an experience, and to get you experiencing all that Iowa farmers markets have to offer, a good place to start is these 10 best in the state.
Touted as not only one of the best farmers markets in Iowa, but recognized as one of the most plentiful markets in the nation, the Downtown Des Moines Farmers Market has loads to see, eat and do every Saturday throughout the summer and shoulder seasons. Located on the Historic Court District on Court Avenue, this market has a plethora of locally-grown options to eat, but with live music and plenty of people watching, it’s not just the food that draws the crowd to the Downtown Des Moines Farmers’ Market.
Iowa City Parks and Recreation hosts two farmers markets a week during the summer, both of which invite residents to pick up some fresh ingredients or homemade delicacies. Whether you go for the Wednesday evening market, or wake up early to catch the Saturday morning festivities, you’re sure to see some homegrown items for sale and some hometown faces to meet.
Taking place twice a month during the summer, the Cedar Rapids Farmers Market is one of the biggest in the Midwest, featuring over 200 vendors and an average of 14,000 visitors for this bi-monthly event. Add in the live cooking demonstrations, musical performances and wide array of children’s activities, and the Cedar Rapids Farmers Market becomes much more than just a place to grab some fresh produce and homegrown specialties.
Nestled next to the Mississippi River, the Dubuque Farmers Market is the oldest in the state of Iowa, dating back to 1858 when it was first housed in the city hall building. Well over 170 years later, the Dubuque Farmers Market still bridges the gap between rural and residential Iowa, and every Saturday from May to October, the market sprawls for three city blocks from city hall and attracts a lot more customers. To take part in the legacy yourself, head over to the Upper Main district of Dubuque next Saturday for the Dubuque Farmers Market.
Featuring locally-grown produce, bountiful baked goods and handcrafted objects, the Sioux City Farmers Market is a central community gathering spot in Western Iowa for two days of the week throughout May to October. Located in the parking lot of Tyson Events Center on Pearl Street, the Sioux City Farmers Market brings together vendors and patrons Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, giving you two chances to catch all the action.
The Mississippi Valley Growers’ Association (MVGA) is non-profit organization that oversees both the Bettendorf and Davenport Farmers Markets, which feature exclusively goods created in the Mississippi Valley region. The number of vendors at each event isn’t the highest you’ll see across the state, but the quality of produce, food and handmade items surpasses many expectations. With events occurring on Monday and Thursday evenings in Bettendorf, and Wednesday and Saturday mornings in Davenport, there’s no reason you can’t find the time to enjoy some homegrown Mississippi Valley goodies.
Whatever you are looking for at a farmers market, whether it’s fresh eggs or a homemade sourdough, perhaps even handcrafted pottery, you can find it at the Winneshiek Farmers Market in Decorah. And if you happen to be preoccupied on Saturday morning when the Winneshiek Farmers Market takes place in the Oneota Food Co-op parking lot, then you can check it out Wednesday in the same location.
Having just come to fruition in 2015, the Clear Lake Farmers Market is still a young one, but with an awesome location of the legendary Surf Ballroom (the last venue Buddy Holiday would play before perishing in a nearby plane crash), plus an excellent array of produce, perennials and baked goods, it seems like it will be here to stay. Check it out for yourself every Saturday morning and immerse yourself into the Clear Lake community.
Much like the rest of the farmers markets on this list, the Grinnell Farmers Market is a 100 percent producer market, which means that everything that is available to buy has been produced by the person selling it to you. While this local-economy friendly method doesn’t necessarily differentiate the Grinnell Farmers Market from the others, the bright and friendly community that fills the streets every Thursday evening and Saturday morning fills that role.
If you are a resident of Cedar Falls or the nearby Waterloo, or just passing through on any weekend outside the winter, chances are you can find some fresh produce being sold on the streets. That’s because between the two towns that share a border, there are at least five farmers markets taking place, including the College Hill Farmers Market, the Kimball Ridge Farmers Market and the biggest one of them all, the Downtown Cedar Falls Farmers Market that offers live music alongside its food buying options.