Downtown Farmer's Market: More than Just Produce, Crafts & Music - ABC5 News Des Moines, IA

Downtown Farmer's Market: More than Just Produce, Crafts and Music

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By Ron Marasco


Forget about corn, pottery and food stands, the Downtown Des Moines Farmer's Market also shows off some unusual items and attractions.

One of the items: balloon plants.

"It's an asclepsia phycarpus," said Dave Goings, who runs Stella's Guesthouse and Gardens stand at the market.  "It's a form of milkweed that I grow for their unusual seed pods."

The plant has attracted a lot of attention.  People just can't keep their hands off the pods.  They look like small green balloons with whiskers, and are a little squishy.

"I don't even know how to explain it (how it feels)," said one bystander who was feeling the pods.

Monarch butterflies especially like the plant.

"The caterpillar chews the leaf, absorbs that alkaloid, and then it's distasteful for the birds, so they will only lay their young on some form of milkweed," said Goings.

Goings uses the stems with pods attached in his bouquets, which are very popular.

"I think it's the unusualness," said Goings.  "I think it's the authenticity of the flowers, and I think that does draw people.  It's amazing what Iowa can grow."

What's also amazing is Iowa can grow yellow watermelon.

"If you closed your eyes, you'd swear you're eating red one," said Greg Rinehart of Rinehart Farms.

Rinehart sells the unusual watermelons at his stand near 5th Street and Court Avenue.  And plenty of people buy them.

"Very popular," said Rinehart.  "It's surprising how many people have never seen a yellow watermelon."

Many people have never seen a train at a farmer's market either.  Engineer Joe Van Haecke drives the converted rider mower, which now looks like a small locomotive, and pulls several cars made from oil barrels.  

"We noticed it (the train) was up for sale from the previous owners last year, and nobody bought it," said Van Haecke.  "(So) my wife and I decided we'll go ahead and take it over this year."

For two bucks, he takes kids on a continuous figure eight ride on a portion of the street blocked off for the farmer's market. 

"It really just kind of makes my day when I can see them having so much fun," said Van Haecke.

Jill Beebout's also having fun doing something you don't see every day.  She's spinning cordell wool into yarn.

"I also spin alpaca, llama and mohair, and 80% comes from in-state," said Beebout of Blue Gate Farm in Chariton.

She says business has been good.  So good sometimes, she'll have to spin while at the farmer's market to just to restock what she just sold.

"So many people have lost touch with the history of the wool trade and where fiber and fabric and yarn came from, so it's fun to have them ask questions about it."


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