The Downtown Farmers’ Market has something for all ages. If you’ve never attended or have questions about The Market, here are a few tips:
When To Go
It pays to get up early. Get to The Market when it opens to find the best selection and the freshest produce. The Market is open May - October.
What To Bring
Bring Your Own Bag
Some vendors have plastic bags, but it’s best to bring your own canvas shopping bag or basket from home. It’s much better than having all your items bagged separately. The Market sells the ever-popular jute shopping bags at the Information Booth, located at Third Street and Court Avenue.
Bring a Cooler
Storing a cooler in your car helps keep food items cool, especially if you don’t go home right away.
Ask vendors questions when you see unfamiliar produce. Vendors and farmers love to share their knowledge and can even give you recipes and cooking tips.
Wear walking shoes and dress appropriately for the weather. The Market is open rain or shine, so dress accordingly. Learn more about The Market's weather policy.
Be kind to your pups and leave them at home, as the environment can be overwhelming for many dogs. If patrons do choose to bring their pets, they are expected to act in a responsible manner and adhere to these rules to make everyone’s Market experience pleasant.
- Dogs must be under control on a short leash (maximum three-foot leash), and by the owner’s side at all times.
- Dogs need to be kept away from produce, plants and prepared food products.
- Dogs need to be courteous and able to socialize with people and other dogs.
- Be understanding. Not everyone loves dogs, and some fear dogs.
- The Market operates under the City of Des Moines’ laws regarding pets, which include a leash law, cleanup of droppings, current tags and a current rabies certificate.
- Plan in advance to bring doggy cleanup bags or use bags provided around The Market located in dispensers on various light poles.
These terms are related to farming practices, animal husbandry and food processing. Many of these terms do not have legal definitions and may mean different things to different people. By shopping at The Market, you can talk to the people who produce your food. Please ask vendors about their practices.
Products are made by hand in small batches. (CUESA)
In biodynamic farming, the farm is a living organism. In addition to organic practices such as crop rotation and composting, biodynamic farmers rely on special plant, animal and mineral preparations and the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, planets and stars. (CUESA)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for managing the National Organic Program, which was implemented in October 2002. Organic farming avoids the use of most artificial inputs, like synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and bans the use of animal by-products, antibiotics and sewage sludge among other practices. Any food product (except fish) using the word organic must be certified as such by an official USDA accredited certifier.
Animals in a herd are all bred from within the herd. No animals are purchased from breeders or other sources and incorporated into the herd. This practice limits entry of diseases into the herd. (CUESA)
Produced using standard practices widespread in the agricultural industry, such as monocropping and the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics and genetically modified organisms. This term is often used in contrast to “sustainable.” (CUESA)
Meat (usually beef) that is dry-aged is hung in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room for a period of weeks, curing which microbes and enzymes break down the connective tissue, making the meat more tender. Most beef is wet-aged in plastic bags, which reduces the amount of water (and therefore, money) that is lost and hastens the process. Many people believe dry aging results in superior flavor. (CUESA)
Grown with little or no irrigation. Special techniques are often used to retain soil moisture. Tomatoes, potatoes and some orchard crops like apples and apricots can be dry farmed. (CUESA)
For products from less developed countries (coffee, tea, chocolate, sugar and bananas), fair trade seeks greater equity through trading partnerships based on dialogue, transparency and respect. Many certifiers follow international standards developed by Fairtrade International. Fair Trade USA uses its own standards. The term generally means just compensation and fair treatment for farmers and workers, as well as investment in community development and environmental sustainability. (CUESA)
These cheeses are made on the farm using milk that was produced on the farm. They are often made by hand and in small batches. (CUESA)
Free-range (or free-roaming) implies that a meat or poultry product comes from an animal that was raised in the open air or was free to roam. Its use on beef is unregulated, and there is no standard definition of this term. The term “free range” is only regulated by the USDA for use on meat poultry products. USDA requires that birds have been given access to the outdoors but for an undetermined period each day. “Free range” claims on eggs are not regulated. To learn more about what is meant by this term, customers should ask the rancher about their specific practices. (CUESA)
The vast majority of processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), whose DNA has been manipulated in a laboratory using genetic engineering. Certified organic products must be GMO-free. The non-GMO claim is unregulated, but the Non-GMO Project offers a third-party certification. (CUESA)
This label on meat means the ruminant animal (cattle, sheep, goat or bison) was raised on a diet of fresh pasture during the growing season and stored grasses (hay or grass silage) during the winter months or drought conditions. The USDA standard was revoked in 2016; it is now a voluntary claim. Several organizations offer private certifications. Sometimes the term “pasture raised” is used interchangeably with “grass fed.” (CUESA)
“Finished” animals have reached physical maturity and have developed fatty tissue. Some grass-fed animals, like most livestock in the U.S., are grain finished, or are fed grains for an underdetermined amount of time before slaughter. Other grass-fed animals are grass finished: they fed exclusively on grasses throughout their whole life.
Heirloom varieties, also called farmers’ varieties, traditional varieties or landraces, have been selected and developed by farmers through years of cultivation and seed saving for the next season. Farmers hand them down through generations. These varieties are often specifically suited to a certain climate and soil type, and have been selected for flavor, pest resistance, productivity and even beauty. Heirlooms are typically very genetically diverse and variable. (CUESA)
Unlike the few animal breeds that dominate the meat industry, heritage breeds are rare and have a long history. Modern breeds have been selected for qualities that make them ideal for industrial meat production. Similar to heirloom fruits and vegetables, heritage meats typically have unique characteristics and tastes that make them highly desirable. Because these breeds are often native to particular regions and climates and may not be suited to industrial facilities, such animals may be raised in a more sustainable manner, with access to open pasture and a diet free from antibiotics and growth hormones.
There is no government or official definition for this term except on meat and poultry products as defined by the USDA. Use of the term “hormone free” is considered “unapprovable” by USDA on any meat products. Meat and poultry products carrying the “no hormones administered” claim imply that the animal must not have received any added hormones during the course of its lifetime. (CUESA)
Animals were raised with compassion in a way that minimizes stress and allows them to engage in their natural behaviors. (CUESA)
Hybrids are created by cross-breeding parents of different species or cultivars (varieties) to bring out the best traits of both. Seeds saved from hybrids will not “come true”; new seed must be purchased each year. Hybrids are not GMOs. They are produced by controlled crossing, not by gene splicing. (CUESA)
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
A pest management strategy that minimizes impact on the environment. Pesticides are applied in such a way that they pose the least possible hazard and are used as a last resort when other controls are inadequate. (CUESA)
USDA guidelines state that “natural” meat and poultry products can’t contain artificial ingredients or added color and must be only minimally processed; there is no verification system. The claim “natural” on other products is unregulated. (CUESA)
In conventional operations, antibiotics are routinely fed to cows, hogs and chickens to promote faster growth and prevent diseases that run rampant in the cramped conditions in which food animals are kept. “No antibiotics” claims are regulated by the USDA and require ranchers to show documentation. (CUESA)
Hormones are used in industrial farming of cows and sheep to increase growth rate or milk production. Some hormones are natural, some are synthetic and some (like rBGH) are genetically engineered. Like “no antibiotics,” the “no hormones” claim is regulated by the USDA. Documentation must be shown, but the USDA does not routinely test. Hormone use in pork or poultry production is prohibited by the USDA. (CUESA)
Organic farming relies on developing biological diversity in the field to disrupt habitat for pest organisms, and to maintain and replenish the soil. Organic farmers are not allowed to use synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. (CUESA)
Meat or poultry comes from an animal that was raised outdoors on pasture. This term is sometimes used by ranchers to differentiate their product from “free-range” products coming from animals raised indoors. This term is unregulated, and there is no standard definition. (CUESA)
An unregulated term that implies there are no toxic sprays applied, at least not directly on the produce. Unlike the certified organic label, these claims are not verified by a third party. (CUESA)
Raw Milk Cheese
These cheeses are made from milk that is not pasteurized. In the U.S., raw milk cheese is required to be aged for at least 60 days. (CUESA)
Some dried fruits are treated with sulfur dioxide to retain color and act as a preservative. Some people have allergic reactions to sulfur. Unsulfured fruits are often brown in color. Organic dried fruit must be unsulfured. (CUESA)
This term means different things to different people, but generally, it means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future. To CUESA, sustainable means socially just, humane, economically viable and environmentally sound. (CUESA)
Farmers need to practice organic methods for three years on a given piece of land before the products grown there can be certified organic. “Transitional” means that the farmland is in the midst of that transition period toward organic certification. (CUESA)
Vipe Ripened/Tree Ripened
These terms are applied to fruit that has been allowed to ripen on the vine or tree. In our industrial food system, fruit is often picked unripe in order to withstand shipping, and then sometimes treated with ethylene gas to “ripened” and soften them. Tree ripening and vine ripening allow the sugars in the fruit to fully develop, yielding better flavor. (CUESA)