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Mickie Ann Suder, left, sells fruits and vegetables to Nancy Dwire, center, and her husband, Tom, at the Barr Street Market.

Fresh produce draws crowds seeking deals

Farmers markets offer wares appealing to variety of tastes

Photos by Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Mollie Restrepo, center, and her children, Enzo, 6 months, and Eva, 4, wait as Allison Thomas rings up their purchase at the Lincoln Ridge Farms booth on Saturday at the Barr Street Market.
Jerry Miller looks over a display of beets at the Giants Home Grown Fruits and Vegetables’ booth.
Arlin Filler checks out some of the items in the flea market section at the South Side Farmers Market.

– With overcast skies on a lazy summer holiday weekend, Will and Jody Zurbrugg decided to make a food run from their home in Monroeville to downtown Fort Wayne.

First, they fueled up on breakfast at Cindy’s Diner. Then they made a quick stop at the Barr Street Market.

“This is my first time here,” Jody said, clutching a plastic bag filled with a couple of kinds of lettuce and tomatoes.

“We’re having people over for a cookout tomorrow, and I thought I’d have a fresh salad.”

Indeed, Barr Street’s coordinator Pone Vongphachanh said, many area people have been spending time pre- and post-Fourth checking out the market’s wares.

Last Saturday, she said, market attendance reached an all-time high of 1,080 people, with about 200 on the plaza at Barr and Berry streets at one time.

“Some of our produce vendors sold out by the halfway mark,” she said, attributing the record to “nice weather” and a Wine and Canvas event that encouraged attendees to sample the fruit of the vine and express their inner artist.

The Barr Street Market is one of a number of farmers markets that operate on several days throughout the week in Fort Wayne. On Saturdays, in addition to Barr Street and the Fort Wayne Farmers Market across East Berry Street, the South Side Farmers Market at 3300 Warsaw St. has been offering patrons fresh food and flea market items for many years.

Saturday’s attendance at Barr Street wasn’t as large as last week’s, Vongphachanh said, but several attendees said they were newbies experiencing the thrill of discovery.

They had plenty to tickle their palates – from tastes of locally tapped maple syrup and maple cream from Bill and Kim Owen, owners of Maple Acres in Avilla, to sugar-free Aunt Lora’s Caramels of Fort Wayne.

Miniature purple- and white-stripped eggplants and baby squash were a draw at the stand of Naturally Home Grown Farm near Roanoke.

“We cut our squash at the size you’re supposed to,” owner Mark Loebert said, working the stand with his wife, Susan, “so we don’t have baseball bat zucchini.”

At the Fort Wayne Farmers Market, vendors were selling farm-fresh brown eggs as well as frozen whole and cut-up chickens out of a cooler. Others proffered bunches of sunflowers, daisies and other cut flowers and gourmet dog treats.

The stands are run by some of the same vendors who were found at Parkview Field during the winter months. The market has different operators than the Barr Street Market, which is a project of Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana, Vongphachanh said.

Both markets include some nonfood vendors, including purveyors of soap, candles, hand-painted signs and jewelry.

Customers on the Barr Street side were entertained by singer Sunny Taylor and staff members of the children’s department of the Allen County Public Library, who assisted youngsters with colorful paper crafts.

But the big draw was the produce, some of the earliest of the season.

Fresh basil was selling briskly, with first-timers Brenda Komin and her husband, Kevin, taking home a patio pot full of the aromatic herb.

The Huntertown couple bought the basil from vendor Mitchell Hardy of Hardy’s Farm Market in southwest Fort Wayne. Brenda, 53, was anticipating using the leaves a few snips at a time in fresh tomato sauce for pasta.

“We just heard a lot of good things about it,” she said of the market, noting she’s been wanting to come because has a friend who sells there and has invited her to stop by via Facebook.

Kevin, 53, said the open-air market reminded him of the couple’s recent vacation to Spain.

“The last market we went to was in Barcelona,” he said. “This is a little smaller.”

“But it gets the community together,” his wife added. “Anytime you have fresh food, it’s a good thing.”