Writer  /  Julie Yates
Photographer  /  Belinda Russell

Each Thursday evening, until the first week of October, the Civic Plaza at 9230 Memorial Park Drive transforms into a family friendly, activity-filled farmers market. The Fort Ben Farmers Market is open rain or shine from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. and hosts close to 40 vendors, including food trucks. As an alternative to a standard weekend farmers market, the weeknight time accommodates busy families.

“Having the market in the evening is good because people can swing by on the way home from work,” says Mandy Wright-Jarrett, director of the market. “Families get too busy on weekends. They can have dinner together and enjoy a fun night of activities on a Thursday night.”

Visitors to this year’s market can see many returning vendors but also new ones. Grace & Truth Farms from Rossville sell certified organic turkeys. They also offer chicken, pork and eggs, vegetables and fruits, plus some prepared items. All are organically raised, chemical free and non-GMO. Another familiar vendor is Biltz Greenhouses & Produce. Their stand is filled with seasonal fruit, berries and vegetables. Family-owned Dragonwood specializes in honey and maple sugar products and is located in Tipton County. The Wraparoni food truck serves up burritos and bowls that incorporate macaroni and cheese along with ingredients such as barbecue pork and cheesy alfredo chicken.

“This is the third year for the Fort Ben Farmers Market,” Wright-Jarrett says. “In 2017, Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier saw a need for a community farmers market. He hired the director of the Original Farmers Market at the Indianapolis City Market, Stevi Stoesz, to get it up and running. Last year, she recruited me and this year I am running it on my own.

“My goal is to make the market more diverse and welcoming to all in the community,” she adds. “Lawrence has a large population of Latino families in the area and we are hoping to attract more vendor that fit in with that. We offer assistance to vendors so that their signs are displayed in both English and Spanish. Also, WIC and SNAP benefits are honored.”

Across from the purveyor booths is a large green space where activities take place. At the Reading Tree, volunteers read children’s books both in English and Spanish. Twice a month, patrons are treated to live music. On the last Thursday of every month, a Makers and Creators Camp is held where crafters not only have art to sell but also demonstrate and instruct people how to make their own items. During Vintage Record Days, a record player is hooked up to the sound system and vinyl LPs brought by either vendors or guests will be played. On Chicken Day, Wright-Jarrett brings one or more of her Silkie chickens to the market.

“We will also host two inside pop-up markets, one before Thanksgiving and one before the December holidays,” Wright-Jarrett says. “Attendees can buy seasonal food treats and gifts. Dates and locations will be announced later this summer.

“Lawrence is such a diverse community with such pride and spirit,” she adds. “The response has been wonderful – there’s nothing bad about a farmers market!”

Visit the Fort Ben Farmers Market Facebook page @FortBenFarmersMarket for more information.