Braving the cold to get the greens to market

Fresh herbs brought to market by vendor Ian Forslund. The Buzz/Submitted.

Fresh herbs brought to market by vendor Ian Forslund. The Buzz/Submitted.

After hibernating indoors during the winter, the Freight House Farmer’s Market (FHFM) in downtown Davenport kicks off the summer season the first weekend in May by venturing outdoors.

Over 150 different vendors come and sprawl out across the large parking lot to participate, every Tuesday and Saturday.

Doug Coobs is the chairman of the board for the FHFM, as well as a full-time employee in the maintenance department at St. Ambrose University. He said the official first day that the market would move outside this year is May 4. But a few vendors may sneak out sooner.

“The way the weather’s changing,” Coobs said, “we’ll see about 20 to 25 vendors come out probably in April.”

A few brave vendors even started venturing out in the chill of February, one of whom was Ian Forslund. During the warmer months, Forslund brings home-grown vegetables from his town of Coal Valley, Ill. One thing he manages to bring year-round, however, is bread.

“I made a record 102 loaves yesterday,” Forslund said. “Now, my old average of 60 loaves in a day seems like a cakewalk.”

Vending for eight years now, Forslund said the real highlight of the FHFM is the customers. The market is packed with customers during the warmer months. But the regulars, who come in shorts or in snow boots, always know the best time to come.

“I sold out of herbs in the first 15 minutes today,” Forslund said. “Customers who know what they want get here early.”

The FHFM is going into its fifth year of bringing Quad-Citians quality products from local farmers and artisans. While some vendors come from as far as 2 1/2 hours away, most come from within a 30-mile radius of the Quad Cities.

“It’s a well-kept secret we don’t want to keep secret,” Coobs said.
Many vendors work the market on their own time, a pleasure aside from other work.

But a few have committed to this as their full-time job. Davenport resident Jacob Border specializes in baking bread. The freedom and creativity that comes with being his “own boss” is a notable perk for him.

“You can get good, direct feedback from people who are choosing to spend money with you,” Border said. “They can tell you what they want and you can do that for them, and that’s the best.”

And vendors of all sorts are eager to have these conversations with customers. This way, buyers can find the vendor who has exactly what they want—whether it’s produce that is certified organic, traditionally-farmed, or something in between. But no matter how something is grown, Coobs added that it’s often fresher than what we would find in the grocery store.

“The neatest thing here is that you get to know the people and their practices, and make your own choices,” Coobs said. “They know the best time to get a hold of [a product] and what they’re doing with it.”

The FHFM is open year-round on Tuesdays, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information on location and vendors, you can visit their website at freighthousefarmersmarket.com, find them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter, @freighthouse1.

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