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Fresh Picks

Father-daughter duo start pop-up farmers market in Boone Village

Writer  /  Christy Heitger-Ewing
Photographer  /  Amy Payne

For years Leigh Ann Akard and her father Steve Akard, owners of True Value Hardware in Boone Village, had thought of possibly starting a weekday evening pop-up farmers market in the area.

“I’ve never been able to attend a Saturday morning farmers market because I’m always at work, and I know others are in the same boat,” Leigh Ann says. “Plus, parents are often busy on Saturdays with sporting events for their kids. And some people just like to sleep in on the weekend.”

She never pursued the idea of the pop-up market, however, because Marsh was also located in Boone Village and she didn’t want to step on any toes. When the grocery chain closed its doors in early July, however, she and other retailers in the area immediately saw a decrease in foot traffic, which was concerning.

“Once people’s buying habits change, or they get into a new routine, it’s hard to break that and go back to the old one,” Leigh Ann says. “We wanted to keep the Village in the top of their minds for their produce needs and food needs.”

Plus, although Meijer and Target are within driving distance, the Akards recognized that there was no food source that was a comfortable walking or biking distance. With Kroger not planning to move into the Marsh space until mid-December or early January, Leigh Ann decided to fill out an application with the town to start the approval process to move forward on plans for the pop-up market. On July 26, they had their first market, offered every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m.

“We have a nice variety of items and over 20 vendors,” Leigh Ann says. “Meats, eggs and baked goods. Plus, tons of fresh fruits and vegetables that the farmers are literally picking and bringing straight here.”

This includes peaches, corn, green beans, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, peppers and tomatoes. In addition, Oberweis Dairy offers milk services, a naturalist sells non-GMO products and another makes organic cleaners. On hand are also several local crafters who make jewelry and soap.

“That part of the parking lot smells fantastic,” Leigh Ann says.

The Akards have reached out to local organizations and services to draw additional customers. For instance, one week the Caring Center did a household items collection. Another week Kroger held an ice cream social to celebrate National Farmers Market week. Leigh Ann also organized an electronics recycle, a document destruction day, a blood drive with the Indiana Bloodmobile and “Touch a Truck” in which children could get up close and personal with Zionsville fire trucks, police cruisers and street & storm water department trucks. One Wednesday, the Zionsville Fire Department grilled hot dogs and had a dunk booth. Donations for that event supported “Flagpoles for Heroes” in which firefighters install flagpoles in the yards of veterans. Leigh Ann also planned a cat adoption day with the Boone County Humane Society.

“There’s an energy and excitement when the tents pop up each Wednesday,” says Leigh Ann, who has been pleased with the steady crowd of this grass-roots effort. “We hope as word spreads that foot traffic will pick up even more.”

Customers say they appreciate the evening market as they’re able to swing by on their way home from work or from picking up the kids.

The pop-up market will continue to run as long as farmers have produce to sell, and with the seasons running longer, that may mean late October. In addition, they are planning a winter pop-up market the first weekend of December during Christmas in the Village, which will include more crafters than farmers given the season.

The Akards hope to resume the pop-up market again in the spring, assuming Kroger is okay with it.

“We are just thrilled to fill a hole that we saw the community needed,” Leigh Ann says.

Boone Village Shopping Center is located at 25 Boone Village in Zionsville.

About Christy Heitger-Ewing

Christy Heitger-Ewing is an award-winning writer and columnist who writes human interest stories for national, regional, and local magazines. She is also the author of the book “Cabin Glory: Amusing Tales of Time Spent at the Family Retreat” (www.cabinglory.com).

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