Fresh & Local
by Julie Nichols
The University of Nebraska’s Buy Fresh Buy Local’s program boosted the market scene, intended to support small producers and connect consumers through farm tours to the knowledge that high nutrition is right at hand and producing it is challenging. Buy Fresh builds relationships with local stores, offers workshops in business development, and stimulates collaboration between customers and producers to make lasting connections to the local food supply.
The results have been delicious and nutritious and contagious. Nebraska now has over 100 markets statewide providing homegrown and homemade products in rural towns. This access to fresh produce has also stimulated interest in urban farms and gardening.
Naturally, the markets follow the growing season. Many vegetable farmers offer bedding plants, herbs and heirloom vegetable starts, and often heirlooms, for sale in the spring. As spring proceeds, cut flowers add to the colorful farmstands. Though not all producers are officially certified organic, most growers are mindful, and many adhere to organic practices. As summer comes on, variety in produce explodes: heirloom tomatoes, microgreens and pea shoots, berries, peppers hot and sweet, piles of radishes and green onions, braising greens, lettuces. As fall approaches, exotic cauliflowers, brussel sprouts, kale, kohlrabi, beets, melons, squash and pumpkins appear. Dried arrangements and wreaths add to autumn’s beauty as the growing season ends. In the past five years or so, the popularity of the markets has led producers to offer the Holiday Markets in November offering late season vegetables, preserved products and gift items. This year, the market will be outdoors at the College View location.
Some growers also offer CSA memberships (community supported agriculture) so Lincoln residents can sign on for a share of fruits and vegetables throughout the season, and many markets accept SNAP/EBT dollars for fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and honey. The market offers matching monies up to $20 to help increase access to healthy food options.
Food trucks and stands provide walking snacks, treats and meals. Kettle corn. Gelato. Enchiladas. Sweet pastries. Exotic cookies. Even paella has made an appearance at the market. The Parthenon is a regular at the farmers’ markets formerly a beloved Greek restaurant, now turned to food truck/catering. Daffodil Catering brings Persian food and pastries from their brick and mortar restaurant. Manila Bay, a favorite among many Lincolnites, fries up fresh Filipino lumpia (egg rolls) while you wait. Classic Nebraska pickles and preserves are plentiful, as well as baked goods you can eat on site or take home. While many producers offer a variety of products, some vendors like Pasta di Tutto, Le Quartier Bakery, Hunter’s Honey and Twin Springs Pecans specialize.
Common Good Farms, a veteran operation and certified organic, biodynamic farm produces over 45 types of vegetables and herbs, grass-fed beef, pastured pork and chicken and award-winning eggs and organic perennial, veggie and herb plants in spring and fall. Robinette Farms (certified organic) brings microgreens, a variety of seasonal heirloom vegetables to your table. Shadowbrook Farms/Dutch Girl Creamery, a top-notch produce operation and an award-winning goat cheese producer, suffered a fire in 2022 but is rebuilding; meanwhile, producing soft cheeses and yoghurt in the university facility.
A number of producers offer chicken, beef and pork, including Wolff Farms, Winchester Farms, Tjaden Ranch, and Doc’s Holiday Healthy Farms. Prairie Pride offers pastured eggs in addition to grass-fed beef and pork. Daniel’s Produce expands it repertoire of veggies each year, Lamberts’ brings in prime watermelon, muskmelons, cantaloupes, pumpkins and squashes.
Two major markets, one in the Haymarket and the other in College View (near Union College) happen on the weekend, but midweek markets also pop up each year. As the Haymarket District has grown to accommodate many hotels and apartments within walking distance, so has the original farmer’s market in town. With over 200 vendors, this Saturday market combines street fare with all the Haymarket shops and restaurants. Many artisans show work at alongside with the local produce, beef & poultry, fresh eggs, homebaked goods and innovative fare from farm producers. Local performers play from 9:00–11:00 a.m. at Iron Horse Park. This market is fun for kids. Parking is available throughout the Haymarket at one of its many garages. The market is located at 201 N 7th Street and runs from 8:00-1:00. Rain or shine; no pets, please.
The second-largest, the Sunday Farmer’s Market at College View is a producers-only market, drawing a wide variety of more than 60 vendors, and offering plenty of hot and cold snacks. Fresh local produce, artisan cheeses, grass-fed natural meats, dried wildflower wreaths, pecans, eggs, baked goods. There are more than 60 vendors at this producer-only market. This market allows leashed, well-behaved dogs. This market takes places at 4801 Prescott Avenue, adjacent to the Union College campus and runs April through October, now with extended days in November. Enjoy weekly live music while you browse the market.
Hub Café, an amazing farm-to-table restaurant, hosts a quick weekly pop up market out of the Jayne Snyder Trails Center and adjoining, picturesque Union Plaza, offering the best in seasonal produce, food & drink from Hub Café in an outdoor/indoor setting, and a great line-up of the best local musical acts in the outdoor amphitheatre. This market began in 2020 as a CSA subscription pickup location for two local producers and has quickly grown into a neighborhood ‘happening’ with more producers; it’s a great place to meet. There is ample free parking, and for cyclists, Hub is located right on the Billy Wolff Trail. The market runs from May to September, 5-7:00 pm.
Another midweek market, Thursday Farmer’s Market in Fallbrook, 570 Fallbrook Boulevard. (Fallbrook Town Square), alternates Thursday evenings from 5–7:00 pm, and is great for families, offering kids a big neighborhood green space to romp and a bounce house. Homemade rootbeer, tasty tacos, and a rotation of kids’ activities and ready-made foods in a beautiful neighborhood center make this market a relaxing evening’s diversion while picking up groceries or dinner. The market begins in June and ends in October.
While not a weekly market, East Campus Discovery Days and Farmers Market at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a fun, family-friendly event for all ages: it’s a market with hands-on, science-focused fun. With live music and food trucks, you can shop at the farmers’ market and vendor fair. Enjoy a scoop of ice cream at the newly renovated UNL Dairy Store and take in the beauty of the East Campus Arboretum and Backyard Farmer garden. Activities are free! For information on dates, see discoverydays.unl.edu.
Although not heavily advertised, many neighborhoods in Lincoln have their own quieter weekly markets. While these smaller markets come and go over the years, their numbers are on the rise. Many can be found near churches or community centers.
Here are a few of the best-known:
University Place Community Market
2753 N. 50th Street,3 to 7 pm Wednesdays,
June – September.
F Street Neighborhood Farmer’s Market
302 F Street, 4 to 7pm Tuesdays,
May – October.