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Scene in South Bend: The Farmer’s Market

| Monday, October 2, 2017

Considered a “hidden gem” of South Bend, the Farmer’s Market has a reputation that precedes itself to those from the Notre Dame community. One of the “largest and most diverse markets in the Midwest,” the Farmers Market has 96 stalls — each offering a unique product.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are only the beginning — everything from homemade cookies, flowers bouquets, bubble teas and even Native American artwork made from horsehair are available for purchase. While extensive, the products offered at the market aren’t what keep it jam-packed every Saturday — it is the opportunity to cultivate a personal relationship with the people who produce your food. So, when NDH’s usual options leave you craving something different, South Bend’s Farmer’s Market offers a fresh variety with a personal touch.  Whether you are looking for locally-grown, organic produce or you’re just hungry for something that tastes like home, the SB Farmer’s Market really has it all — and then some.

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Dating back to 1911, farmers and local businessmen near South Bend traveled to Colfax Street to sell their products in the public market.  Within a decade, demand for these fresh, local goods boomed — reportedly thousands of customers came through in just one day. By 1924, the South Bend Farmer’s Market was considered a landmark in the city, and the generations of family farms and businesses that continue to serve at the market still consider it one today. Vaughn D. Wolf, a farmer whose stall offers brilliant, multi-colored produce, has been selling his goods at the market for 27 years and has earned his spot as the operator of one of the most popular stalls. Wolf, who personally harvests every vegetable seen on the table, eagerly informs customers of the care with which he grows his products to ensure the best possible quality. A farmer all his life, Wolf says the community’s support and love of his produce keeps his family tradition going.

Fortunately, taking pride in local, family businesses that produce quality goods is not unique to Wolf’s stand. Across from Wolf’s is The Baker’s Dozen — a pastry business dating back to 1989. Behind a counter filled with baked goods galore stands a friendly teenage girl whose aunt and uncle wake up at 3 a.m. every morning to bake their products. As you walk through the market, stands feature multiple family members selling local jams, honeys and spices. One man sells his own array of leather goods with his wife’s handmade chocolate bark on the side.  While each stall clearly has its own character, a united sense of community proliferates throughout the market.

If you visit the Farmer’s Market, Sweet Street and The Farmer’s Market Café are the must-try places. Sweet Street’s caramel-covered, chocolate-dipped treats are hard to resist, and give Kilwins a real run for its money. DeLo’s Café, a part of Sweet Street, has incredible coffee with great flavor, and also offers smoothies and bubble tea. As for the Farmer’s Market Café, this 89-year-old restaurant is arguably the main reason people visit the Farmer’s Market. Using fresh products offered from the market itself, the café has the look and feel of a diner without the grease. While these two locations are essential for the Farmer’s Market experience, great inexpensive seasonal decorations and products are also sold here as well. For the fall, pumpkins and Halloween decorations line the store, and pumpkin-flavored products help get customers in the spirit of the season.

The South Bend Farmer’s Market really has something for everyone. Many stands are tailored to vegan and gluten-free diets, and organic products are offered everywhere. It is fair to say the Farmer’s Market is unlike anything I have been to in South Bend — a trip here will surely instill in you a new appreciation for the people who make your food, even if that means leaving with a few extra bags than planned.

The South Bend Farmer’s Market is located at 1105 Northside Blvd. in South Bend. It is open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday — hours can be found online at http://www.southbendfarmersmarket.com

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