Lincoln’s Farmers Markets

by Tegan Colton

When Kevin Loth and Charuth Van Beuzekom left California to start a farm outside Lincoln, Nebraska, they had no idea how they were going to make it work. It was 1996, and their vision for running an organic, sustainable vegetable farm was foreign in the Midwest at the time. Nobody had even heard of sustainable farming, or why it was important for farmers to grow this way. Still, the couple pursued their dreams. With her infant son strapped to her back, Charuth and her husband Kevin pitched a tent at Lincoln Haymarket’s Farmers’ Market to sell bundles of their fresh, home-grown greens. 

It wasn’t long before they were selling out within hours. 

Kevin Loth and Charuth Van Beuzekom own ShadowBrook Farm and Dutch Girl Creamery, a small, sustainable farm that grows vegetables and goat’s milk respectively. They’ve been selling their wide range of sustainably-grown vegetables in Lincoln since 1996 and started selling goat’s milk products in 2006. They, along with many other farmers around Lincoln, depend on Lincoln’s farmers’ markets to sell their produce, meat, and dairy products. 

Like Kevin Loth and Charuth Van Beuzekom, many farmers and artisans in Lincoln use the city’s farmers’ markets to connect their farms and crafts to locals. It’s a perfect way for Lincolnites to give back to the local economy and support small businesses. Hundreds of vendors now sell at Lincoln’s farmers’ markets; from late May to early October, anyone can find a banquet of fresh produce, meat, pastries, and jellies, along with handmade crafts and jewelry at any of the farmers’ markets in Lincoln.

It’s arguable that the Lincoln Haymarket Farmers’ Market is the most famous of these. Located in Lincoln’s beautiful Historic Haymarket district, the market runs from 8 a.m. to noon through spring and fall on Saturdays. The market started in 1987 as a strategy to get people to visit the newly renovated Haymarket area. At the time, there were only a few vendors. Now, they line the streets for blocks. 

It’s amazing to see so many people selling things they planted, picked, or crafted with their own hands. 

“We have a golden rule: Anything sold at the market must be made by or grown by or baked by the person selling it,” said the Haymarket’s Executive Director Jeff Cunningam. It’s a good rule: it feels very natural to purchase goods directly from the person who made them.

Visiting the market on a clear summer morning is one of life’s domestic treasures. People walk the brick streets with their friends, families, and dogs and enjoy sampling a little bit of everything: kettle corn, fried hot tamales, literal cornucopias of fresh fruits, vegetables, homemade tarts, cakes of honeycomb, rainbows of homemade jellies, fried wontons, egg rolls, and sweet, flaky baklava dripping honey. There are tents selling herbs and herbal remedies, bouquets of freshly picked lavender, basil, lilacs, and daisies, glittering hand blown glass jewelry, wooden door decals, and more. There’s almost always a live local band playing, making it a perfect spot for a date! It’s even better that it all takes place in the Historic Haymarket, right next to classic, local shops like Ivana Cone and From Nebraska. 

Although COVID-19 regulations spaced out the vendors and postponed the live music that usually plays, the usual bustle of excited families, couples, and accompanying pets still filled the air in 2020. According to the Haymarket’s Executive Director Jeff Cunningham, the coronavirus didn’t stop people from lining the streets.

“We’ve had pretty good attendance. Some will wear a mask. Some won’t. It’s not required,” Cunningham said. “We just kind of rolled with the punches all year round. I mean it’s 2020. Everything’s been crazy.”

While Lincolnites remain safe during COVID, it doesn’t stop many from visiting any of the other farmers’ markets either.

The Sunday Farmers’ Market at College View is slightly smaller than the Haymarket but just as lively. Located at 4801 Prescott Avenue, it runs from late-April to mid-October on Sundays, and is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. This market sells mainly produce from local farms, but includes pastries, bread, dairy, and food from local shops and restaurants. The College View farmers’ market also hosts a holiday market in November, selling late-season harvests.

The Fallbrook Farmers’ Market is located on 570 Fallbrook Boulevard and runs from mid-June through mid-August from 4–7 p.m. on Thursdays. This market sells produce, meats, and eggs and serves hot food from local vendors. There’s jewelry, crafts, live music, and even a bouncy house for those rambunctious kids! It’s a perfect place to take the family on a warm summer evening.

It’s difficult owning a farm, but the people who do it for us know they’re giving back to Lincoln—and its people. Kevin Loth and Charuth Van Beuzekom with ShadowBrook Farm say they work hard: they put in 80-hour weeks, till the ground themselves, harvest the 10 acres themselves, milk the 200 goats themselves and produce the cheese and chocolates themselves. It’s back-breaking work, but according to Charuth, it’s worth it.

“The most important thing (to us) is selling to our local economy and local people around us. You know—going wholesale or distribution right at farmers’ markets,” Charuth said. 

Giving back to your local farmers, bakers, and artisans gives back to your community and, ultimately, yourself. When you’re able to reap the benefits of eating wholesome, fresh food, it’s because a local grower like Kevin or Charuth provided it for you. Without our farmers’ markets, Lincoln wouldn’t be able to sustain the rich tapestry of small farms and shops that it does today. By purchasing goods from the farmers’ markets each year, you personally help make Lincoln a more vibrant place to live. And by the looks of things, it keeps getting better. 

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