Bounty of spring
The opening of Carmel’s Farmers’ Market signals a time of renewal – and great food
By Pete Smith
“There’s not a better venue in the United States for a market. There’s just not,” gushes market master and city councilor Ron Carter at the thought of his passion.
This is the Carmel Farmers’ Market’s 16th year, and it has never felt more necessary than after the brutal winter this city has suffered through. The smell of fresh flowers, the taste of good food and the warmth of the sun on attendees’ skin all signify that the months of suffering are over and done.
And this year’s incarnation will feature 64 vendors; and almost all come from less than 15 miles away. And Carter is quick to note that the average produce at a supermarket can come from about 1,500 miles away.
“The food is safer and the food is fresher,” he said, noting that the only instances of a non-Indiana provider are when the product can’t be grown here. Artisan olive oils and tea vendors are the prime examples.
And Carter said food security and safety are paramount. Each vendor even displays a sign on their booth describing the distance to their farm or location below their booth number.
“We’re the only market in the state with a vendor relations committee to travel and discuss and verify products and make sure they’re in contract compliance,” Carter said, noting that vendors appreciate that as much as customers.
‘It’s a festive time’
This year’s market will once again take place on the green in between the Palladium and the Center for the Performing Arts.
It’s a great location because it’s adjacent to the Monon Trail and has plenty of free street and garage parking. The shaded parking is crucial to help keep cars cool so that the fresh produce isn’t damaged. And bicycles aren’t forgotten either – the Mayor’s Youth Council operates a shaded bike tent that operates just like a coat check.
Carter said the market has seen a sustained growth in popularity since its inception and that about 75,000 people attended last year.
He said it’s a great place for the people new to the area or young families.
“Kids love the market,” Carter said. “And this is a very easy thing for people who are new to the community to get involved in. It’s a festive time, it’s fun and it’s casual.”
This year’s attractions
This year’s market will start two weeks earlier than usual on May 3 and it will close one week earlier in September. The market is open from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each Saturday in between.
This year’s event will kick off with off with Jim Keckley Donut Day. Each person will be given a free donut – while they last – in honor of the market’s first president.
The musical performance during the event are also popular, and acts such as Johnny Mac Band, Blair Clark, Acoustic Catfish and Blackberry Jam are well received.
And while there will be cooking demonstrations each week, no one will want to miss the Fire House Cook-off on Aug. 16. That’s when firefighters from each station will compete against each other to cook the best version of the same dish.
Crowds will be invited to sample them and then vote for their favorite. The winning station will get bragging rights and a custom gold-plated skillet. But voters won’t be left out.
On the back of each vote, voters will write their name. A raffle afterwards will select a winner who will get dinner at the winning fire house for their entire family with transportation provided by Above and Beyond Limousines.
Carter said they’re likely the only market with its own limousine service and he often hears: “That’s so Carmel.”
‘Premiere farmers’ market’
The market wouldn’t run without the help of 50 volunteers who work one of three shifts to ensure everything goes off without a hitch.
If people are interested in becoming volunteers they can learn more at www.carmelfarmersmarket.com.
It’s not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning and most weeks are pretty relaxing. Carter said the most popular weeks don’t start until mid-June and they last through July.
“The height of attendance is when the corn and tomato frenzy hits,” he said.
But he said any week is a good time to stop by and get a great breakfast or lunch.
“I think we’re the premiere farmers’ market in the state,” Carter said. “And one of the best in the country.”
The lineup of 64 vendors isn’t chosen based on first come, first served. Carter said a committee selects vendors based on what keeps the market exciting and fresh. This year, all the market’s previous vendors were asked back and will be in their previous locations.
“We haven’t had a bison vendor for some years, and this is going to be very good for the market overall,” said Carter of Bison World’s products.
Owner Samuel Johnson said his bison are raised in Noblesville since 1999 in pastures that can be seen from Ind. 37.
He said the meat is a healthy alternative because it contains no artificial hormones or antibiotics. And some heart surgeons even recommend the meat for its high iron count, protein, vitamin B12 and low sodium.
The meat can be bought as ground, in pre-made patties or as jerky.
For more information visit www.bisonworld.org.
Nicole Taylor’s Pasta and Market makes the trek north to Carmel each week from its facility in Broad Ripple. The business sells a unique form of 25 fresh pastas, and they’re the only maker in town.
Many of the pastas are flavored with spinach, tomato, garlic, roasted red pepper, chives, whole wheat, curry and many others.
They even offer seasonal pastas such as chocolate, pumpkin and egg-nog-flavored varieties.
“Once you’ve had fresh pasta, you’ll never go back,” said owner Rosa Hanslits, noting the appeal of its unique taste and texture.
The pasta is made with durum flour and contains no eggs.
And Nicole Taylor’s also offers 12 original sauces for sale at its stand.
For more information visit www.nicoletaylorspasta.com.
One of the vendors with the longest drive is Doud’s Orchards from tiny Denver, Ind., in the northern part of the state.
The company has been making the journey for the past 15 years to sell its peaches, apples, strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes and other vegetables to the appreciative public. But the orchard really has built its reputation on just one of its items.
“We’ve got the best apples around,” said longtime worker Shirley Moore.
The orchard uses hardly any pesticides, Moore said.
For more information search for Doud’s Orchards on Facebook.