LAGRANGE, IN --
In spite of common understanding, farmer’s markets have been around for many years and in a variety of locations. The interest and support of these local farmers has been increasing in the last decade.
As of the first week of August of 2015 (proclaimed as National Farmers Market Week), the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory had 8,476 local markets identified from throughout the nation. This shows a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year’s listings. In the tri-state area, Michigan has 331 markets and Ohio runs 300, according to Agricultural Marketing Resource Center (www.agmrc.org). Littleindiana.com lists over 80 locations in the state of Indiana to appreciate.
One of those markets is in LaGrange, IN and has been going since June of 1977, according to Christine Franke of Franke’s Fruit Farm. “We started in LaGrange in 1995 and set up there until 1998, on and off,” Franke said. “At that point we began to be regulars at Howe and are still here.” Franke and her husband Martin, along with their three children, have offered a wide variety of goods at the booth.
The Franke’s decided when they got married that they wanted their children to be raised with agricultural experiences. That is the one of the main reasons for why they are vendors at the market every Saturday morning from May until October. Another reason is their desire to encourage people to get excited about growing their own food. “I found that 2 percent of the world’s population feeds the world’s population,” Franke said. “I am passionate about getting fresh food to people who will appreciate it. Back in the good old days, people produced their own food.”
Franke’s Fruit Farm is virtually a market in and of themselves. “We don’t buy or sell out of season,” Franke said. “We only sell what we produce.” Their seasonal offerings include flower, vegetable and herb plants from their greenhouse, leaf and head lettuce, radishes, asparagus, spinach, green onions, sugar snap and hull peas, red beets, potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, sweet corn, pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn from their 2.5 acre market patch.
Later in the fall, they will have apples along with the various by-products from the fruit. “We have 17 varieties growing in our 3 acre orchard. One of the apples is called Conestoga and we got a graft from my grandfather’s tree. It is the oldest apple in our orchard,” Franke said. “We will sell apple cider, apple cider vinegar and apple wood chips.”
Franke will occasionally offer homemade soap and handmade pillowcases. She also has a number of recipes that will be used for her baked goods available on some Saturdays. Franke provides one more unusual item to her booth: homemade root beer, available in an ice-filled cooler for those warm shoppers.
One of the most interesting results of the Franke’s efforts is the fact that their children not only helped with the products and the running of the booth, but they also developed their own products. Their youngest son was responsible for the chipping of the pruned branches off the apple trees, creating a market for the apple wood chips for smoking.
Franke’s Fruit Farm is just one of many vendors nationwide that will be selling their products, and philosophies, to ever growing crowd of local supporters.