Pop up market winds down

SOLD: Maria Smietama, owner of Valentine Hill Farm, sells some produce to a few Zionsville shoppers. Maria Leichty | Times Sentinel

The Pop Up Farmers’ Market is wrapping up Wednesday, Oct. 18 in the Boone Village parking lot.

The market was started by Leigh Ann and her father Steve Akard, owners of Akard True Value Hardware, who wanted to fill the Marsh void after it closed.

The first market featured about 14 vendors and took place on July 26, about two weeks after Marsh’s final day.

“I think it has been a huge success just bringing the community together and showing how we can see a need and react quickly,” Leigh Ann Akard said.

A few of the staples in the lot have been Produce by Albert Lewis, Trailhead Naturals, JL Blacker Farm Family Meats, Becky’s Bake Shop and Floral, Studio Salewicz, and Valentine Hill Farm. Akard said at its peak, the market had 22 vendors.

Valentine Hill Farm added the Pop Up Farmers’ Market to their agenda and have seen a large uptick in sales.

“It has been a huge benefit,” owner Maria Smietama said. “The customers have been really responsive.”

She and her husband, William Swanson, also set up at the Zionsville Farmers’ Market, Farm to Fork at Normandy Farms and the Broad Ripple Farmers’ Market.

“Having one more a week makes a huge difference for farm families,” she said.

She said they make about the same amount they make at the Saturday market here. She added that it can change the number of hired hands or what equipment can be purchased.

Maria and William have run Valentine Hill Farm for 15 years and sell organic produce and baked goods.

“The Akards have been great in finding a solution to a problem,” she said.

The market hosted a variety of events, including an electronics recycling program – which Leigh Ann said paid off in an hour – a Flagpole for Heroes event, a blood drive with Indiana Blood Center, a shredding service with Ray’s Trash Service, and Touch-a-Truck with the Zionsville Fire Department.

“We learned a lot of great things,” Leigh Ann said. “Some of the things we did were wildly successful, a few things we weren’t quite as successful as we hoped.”

Leigh Ann said they are open to continuing the market next spring. They also will plan to have one during the Christmas in the Village weekend. The winter market would focus on crafts rather than produce.

“Next year, I would love to see this continue,” she said. “We would probably tweak a few things but we really would have to talk with Kroger to make sure they are OK with that and we would definitely want to talk to the farmers’ market and make sure what we did didn’t have any adverse effect on their market.”

The final Wednesday market will feature a live cooking demo with Kroger Chef Gordon. The event – how to grill the perfect burger – will go from 4 to 7 p.m. and feature grilling equipment from Akard True Value Hardware and burgers from JL Blakcer Farms Family Meats. The sampling includes Kroger deli salads like those that will be available in their new Boone Village location.

Kroger also came and participated in the ice cream social during an August pop up market.

“Kroger was awesome to work with,” Leigh Ann said. “We appreciate their willingness to jump in and get involved.”

In addition to the Kroger event, JL Blacker Farms will be giving away two half hogs Wednesday. The giveaway is free other than a processing fee. A purchase is required to be entered in the drawing and the drawing will be held at 7 p.m. The winner must be present to win.

“We appreciate that everybody was so accommodating of this fill-in-a-hole kind of thing,” Leigh Ann said.

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