Here are some FAQ regarding farmers markets and gardening

Why shop at a Farmers Market? Farmers markets have a number of benefits one in particular being they are a great resource for fresh nutritious foods. As Americans look for healthier options for the dinner table farmers markets can provide a number of fresh fruits, vegetable, greens, and herbs as well as farm fresh meats and eggs. With the assistance of programs such as the WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program  community markets are offering seniors and lower income households access to these fresh nutritious foods as well.

Why participate as a vendor at a Farmers Market? Have you considering growing a garden, but not sure what to do with all that produce? Farmers markets are a great opportunity sell your produce. Whether you are a hobbyist gardener with smaller raised beds or a large producer with acres of plants the farmers market is open weekly for you to sell your fresh produce to people looking for healthier fresh items. At the Community Farmers Market of Owen County we allow vendors to contract for the entire 24 week market season, for half the season, or weekly so vendors have the flexibility to participate as they’d like or have produce available. But it’s not just about the gardens, farmers markets also provide vending opportunities to livestock and egg producers, herb growers, flower growers and nurseries, and value-added items such as breads, cookies, muffins, and other food items.

Why become a grower? Growing and producing farmers market type items can be both rewarding and challenging. Some of the benefits include: food production, exercise, environmental restoration, increased property value, and education. You make it a family adventure! Gardening, livestock care, and preparing baked goods gives children a chance to learn important life skills and can even teach business or job skills when selling the products they prepared. If you live in town growing a community garden is also a great opportunity to gather friends, family, or neighbors to grow healthy community relationships.

Why should my children garden? Gardening can be used as a vehicle for encouraging children to make good food choices, building a love of nature, stimulating practical learning, and cultivating successful growing accomplishments.

Where do I even start with gardening? Starting a Vegetable Garden: Five S’s to Success. If you’re new to gardening and are inspired to grow some vegetables, here are five important “s” elements — you’ll want to consider:

  • Sun. Fruiting vegetables (e.g., beans, tomatoes, peppers, squash, eggplant, cucumbers, etc.) need at least 6 hours of direct sun a day. All others can make do with as little as 3 to 4 hours of sun, but more is almost always better. Trees, buildings, and other structures in your yard may cast shade on your garden. Check the amount of shade and sun on your proposed site, and remember that it will change as the seasons change.
  • Soil. Test your soil to determine its fertility needs. Add amendments as recommended. Also determine how well the soil drains. Be sure to let the soil dry out in spring before working.
  • Site. Build the garden close to a walkway or house so you’re encouraged to visit it frequently. Make sure there’s a water source (faucet) close by. Protect the garden with a fence or barrier if cats, dogs, or wildlife are an issue.
  • Size. Start small — a 10′ by 10′ garden (100 sq. ft.) is a manageable size. Use fences, trellises, containers, and hanging baskets to save space and get more production from your garden.
  • Selection. Grow crops you like to eat! Plant a variety of vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The more diversity, the fewer problems you’ll have with pests. Look for varieties described as “disease-resistant.”

…for more information visit National Gardening Association

How do I improve my garden’s soil? To grow the best vegetables you need good soil. It’s worth taking the time to test your soil’s pH (a measure of its acidity or alkalinity) and amend it as needed before planting. If your soil is too acid or alkaline, plants can’t take up the nutrients they need. You can raise pH (“sweeten the soil”) with lime, and lower it with sulfur. At a minimum, though, plan to add compost; it improves both drainage and the soil’s water-holding capacity. Compost also adds nutrients and boosts soil life. You can purchase a soil test kit from most regional Cooperative Extension offices or garden centers. You can also purchase compost from garden centers or make your own (learn how at www.garden.org).

What is my growing hardiness zone? Did you know in 2012 the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map was revised? Here’s a look at the new map to see what zone you are in for Indiana. For the full map visit the USDA website.

When should I harvest my fruits and vegetables? Here’s a helpful chart for knowing when to harvest. Harvesting Calender