A past survey of commercial producers by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) showed an increasing number of Iowa farmers growing more fruits and vegetables.
By far the most popular venue for fruit and vegetable sales is at the many farmers markets now featured in many Iowa communities, and which also are increasing in demand on a daily basis. The survey showed that more than two-thirds of all growers sell at farmers markets, while others sell privately or direct to grocery stores.
Iowa is number one in the nation per capita for farmers markets, and fourth in the nation in the number of new markets established, and those numbers continue to grow.
Among other survey findings were:
*Farmers are growing a wider variety of fruit and vegetable crops, with 20 of the 23 common vegetables in the survey grown by more and more farmers.
*Sweet corn sales totaled about a third of the $20 million in estimated sales, an increase of 70 percent since the last survey taken. Apple sales were up an estimated 20 percent, and melon sales were up a whopping 119 percent.
*Seventy percent of the survey participants reported an increased demand for locally grown produce, leading more than half of the producers to expand their operations and seek out exposure at various farmers markets.
*One third of the survey participants reported growing some portion of their crops organically.
At Cherokee's Farmers Market operating from 4-6:30 p.m. every Thursday evening through September at the restored, historic Cherokee Illinois Central Railroad Depot, organzers report several new vendors this year and increased traffic as that word has spread.
Of course none of this takes into consideration the healthy, exhilarating, social outing atmosphere that a good farmers market commands, all culminating in some delicious, healthy, nutritious dining direct from the world's finest, Iowa soil!