The first green shoots started poking up through individual containers of dirt in late February.
Spread out on Cassandra Foxx’s dining room, the 300 plants were separated into categories: Bell peppers, banana peppers, six different kinds of tomatoes, jalapeños and a wide variety of herbs.
As the weather warmed, Foxx would move them into a greenhouse. Ultimately, they were destined to be sold at the Greenwood Farmers Market.
“I really love watching things grow, and I enjoy sharing that experience with other people,” she said. “Gardening was something that has always been a big part of my life growing up.”
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Just like Foxx, vendors all over central Indiana have been preparing for months for the start of farmers market season. Area farmers, backyard gardeners, artisans and other producers are all ready for the open-air bazaars in Greenwood, in Franklin and throughout the region.
As more and more people live in urban areas, the markets have become an integral way of connecting people to the food that they eat.
“We’ve tried to keep it laid-back, make it a family-friendly affair and give people the chance to get fresh vegetables here,” said Hugh Kirkham, organizer of the Greenwood Farmers Market.
More than 8,600 farmers markets are registered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and that number is growing every year. Throughout the region, longtime gatherings such as the Original Farmers Market at Indianapolis City Market have been supplemented with newer versions at Garfield Park and Southport.
In Franklin, the farmers market will feature more than 35 vendors, ranging from handmade wood signs from Lovelace and Co. to berries from Cooper’s Blueberries to produce, maple syrup and jams from Riley Family Farms. The Apple Works, which has been a favorite for the produce and apples at its orchard in Trafalgar, will be coming to the farmers market for the first time.
With music playing, activities for children and a wide range of products available, the weekly get-together has become a centerpiece for the downtown area during the summer months, said Carolyn Williams, who helps manage the market.
“It gives everyone a chance to come buy fresh, local products. You don’t have to worry about them being full of pesticides; you know where they come from. And it’s a meet-and-greet spot. Everyone comes by on a Saturday morning to hang out,” she said. “It’s almost like a little downtown party.”
Greenwood’s market also features about 40 vendors. People can pick up specialty heirloom vegetables from grower Allen Davidson, or homemade sauerkraut or kimchi from Metta Gardens. All-natural dog treats, soy candles and kettle corn are some of the other products shoppers will find.
“We’ll have more vegetables, but we do have some craft-type items to give people a variety of things,” Kirkham said. “It’s a nice little farmers market; a good size for this community.”
One of the first-time vendors in Greenwood this year is Foxx, a Beech Grove resident who started her own small business selling houseplants in 2016. She had grown plants herself for years, and decided to take what had been a longtime passion for her, and see if it could be a business.
“Gardening was something my mom was always really good at. We had seven huge gardens, and always had a whole sunroom full of houseplants,” she said. “There’s a lot of reward in growing and eating something yourself, or canning things so you can use them in the winter. You know that you grew it, you produced it. Plants are always surprising, and that makes it fun.”
Foxx’s father had given her a jade plant that he had tended for over 30 years. She watered it, watched it progress and took cuttings to serve as starters for other people to grow it.
“It was older than me. I just thought it was neat that he gave it to me, and now I sell parts of it to other people so they can grow it,” she said.
With her success with houseplants, Foxx expanded her gardening to include vegetables and herbs grown using organic guidelines. Her business, A Foxx in the Garden, specializes in peppers and tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, dill and many other herbs.
The produce that she grows in her multiple garden plots around the Greenwood area will be sold directly to people, and she also will have a few plants that people can buy and put in their own gardens.
The Greenwood Farmers Market brings together her passion for gardening with her interest in teaching others.
“I think it’s important for people to know where their food is coming from,” she said. “At the same time, this is a chance to support local businesses. Instead of just going to the grocery store to buy produce, I feel like it’s really important to go the farmer who grew it, so you can appreciate a little more where it’s coming from.”
Greenwood Farmers Market
When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Oct. 14
Where: Greenwood United Methodist Church, 525 N. Madison Ave.
Information: Greenwood Farmers Market on Facebook
Franklin Farmers Market
When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays through Sept. 2
Where: Downtown Franklin, corner of West Jefferson and South Jackson streets
Original Farmers Market at Indianapolis City Market
When: 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesdays through October
Where: Market Street between Delaware and Alabama streets, Indianapolis
Garfield Park Farmers Market
When: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturdays through October
Where: Garfield Park, near the corner of Shelby Stret and E. Southern Avenue, Indianapolis
Broad Ripple Farmers Market
When: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays through September; 9 a.m. to noon Saturdays October and November.
Where: 1115 Broad Ripple Ave., Indianapolis
Southport Farmers Market
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and 3 to 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sept. 28
Where: 2810 E. Southport Road, Indianapolis