Homemade and Homegrown

The Norwalk Farmers Market opens for the summer

Tanya and Tammy Apana shop at the Norwalk Farmers Market on Friday, May 12. The market consists of a wide variety of vendors from the Norwalk area.

Taylor Stanley, Staff Writer

The Norwalk Farmers Market, a community market filled with homegrown, homemade goods, has started back for the summer as of Fri. May 5. This event will be open every Friday from 4-7pm in the Norwalk Christian Church parking lot throughout the summer and fall season. 

Nichole Swisher, organizer of the market, said this event has been going on for over 15 years.

“When we first started 15 years ago, there were 3 vendors including us,” she said. “After about a year of that, we asked the gentleman who was running it if we could run it, and since then we’ve grown it into this.”

Swisher said she often sees returning customers with each new season.

“We love seeing the people, especially year to year,” she said. “We love meeting people, and seeing everyone come together.”

One of the main goals of the market is to promote small, local businesses. Swisher says she and her family sell a variety of homegrown items.

“My husband, brother-in-law, and I all have bees, so we work the bees to have fresh honey to sell,” she said. “We make jam from any of the fruits that we grow in our garden, plus I also ask other vendors for some of their fruits if we don’t grow it, because I try to make it from local-sourced fruit.”

Swisher said they not only make jam out of their home-grown vegetables, but can use leftover produce to make a variety of new things.

“Any vegetables that we don’t sell we’ll take home and dehydrate, add herbs, and there’s no salt or sugar added,” she said. “We can make dips or dressings out of them. We’ve got homemade breads, hot spices, and homemade dip and dressing mixes.”

Along with produce and homemade products, Swisher said her family has invested in rock polishers and 3D printers to create their own unique items for the market.

“My husband has rock polishers at home,” she said. “He gets rocks from all over the world and polishes them, and my daughter makes homemade jewelry out of some of the rocks. This winter he started playing around with 3D printers, and now he’s got five 3D printers printing. He grows succulents, so we’re printing our own pots now.”

Another vendor, Jackie Stanley, said she repurposes items to sell at her booth.

“There’s a lot of things that I find, and there’s a lot of stuff people want to get rid of or throw away, and then I try and do something with it,” she said. “I have antique collectables and handcrafts, just trying to repurpose things.”

Stanley said shopping at the market is a good way to support small businesses.

“There are good deals, and the majority of the people come for the food,” she said. “You can get fresh Iowa grown plants, eggs, and different foods like that. Rather than going to Walmart and buying things, you can support small businesses.”

Some vendors don’t just participate in Norwalk, but sell in multiple areas. Jerry Ayers and Jeannine Roland set up booths at surrounding markets and craft shows in addition to Norwalk.

“We do this one, and we do Indianola’s farmers market,” Ayers said. “During the summer we keep pretty busy, and during the winter we keep pretty busy. This is only the third year at this location, it used to be over at Ace Hardware. This is our sixth year all together.”

With multiple markets, Ayers said it is important to stay in the same spot each week. This way, customers will recognize their booth.

“We do see regular customers, and to us it feels important to be in this same spot every week, so they know where we’re at,” he said. “And we do the same thing in Indianola.”

Ayers said the farmers market helps small businesses like their own, J&J Crafts.

“It supports local,” he said. “We initially just started using store-bought acrylic, and used that to make yarn. Then we acquired some alpacas, and some sheep, so we now work with that as much as we can. We took probably about 60-80 pounds up to the mill earlier this week to get turned into yarn and some other things.”

J&J Crafts sells homemade dryer balls, which Ayers said became especially popular for Mother’s Day weekend.

“The dryer balls come from the sheep, and we’ve been making those since 2020, and they’ve been amazing,” he said. “People were driving 5 miles South of town out to the farm to buy dryer balls. Our sheep are raised by us, sheared by a shearer, and we do the rest of the process.”

Ayers said the interactions and community he sees at the market is what makes it worth the visit.

“I think the interaction between the vendors is important,” he said. “We don’t just sell, we build community.”