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At the final Des Moines farmers market of the year on December 12, it was the second year for the winter farmers market at its expanded location in the Capital Square and Kaleidoscope at the hub downtown with over 130 vendors.
You won't find any shortage of Christmas gifts, but you will find a lot of Iowa-grown produce, even this late into the year. It's not quite the same as the summer produce, but Melissa Dunham of Grinnell Heritage Farm northeast of Grinnell says it's by no means any less fresh.
Dunham says, "With the summer produce, you're going to see a lot more greens. Due to the early frost this year, and the cold temperatures, we don't have as many of those. Fortunately, we have a walk-in cooler, so we're able to store a lot of this stuff, so it's kind of a misnomer, I guess, that you can't have Iowa grown-produce during the winter months."
Preservation is the name of the game. Garon Shutt of St. Marys, south of Des Moines, uses five greenhouses to extend his growing season, beyond what he's able to grow on four acres of produce in the summer. He's still picking fresh tomatoes, even in December, and has a tip for keeping produce from earlier in the season fresh.
Shutt says, "I have a cooler, and I keep it at 35 degrees. And that's the, you know, you need to keep it as close to 32 degrees as you can, so that it won't deteriorate."
Except during the lunch hour, Capitol Square and Kaleidoscope at the Hub don't see this much activity; in part, it's a testament to the popularity of local produce in Iowan kitchens. Since 2006, Tim Engman has been growing organic herbs with his wife at Pickle Creek Herbal, their herb farm in Brighton, and he says there's more than one advantage to buying local.
Engman says,"The advantage, I think , is that for one, you know where it was grown. And we're certified organic, and all the herbs we grow are organic. So, you know what is and what has not been added to them. Plus, they're fairly fresh. I mean, we only sell the stuff that we just raised this year. Because then next year, we raise all new stuff again, where if you go to the grocery store, you really don't know how long it's been sitting on the shelf."
This Winter Farmer's Market is the last farmers' market in Des Moines until early May of next year.