August 29, 2013 by
Photography by Keith Binder

In 1994, Gene Sivard had an oversized garden with veggies to spare. The Old Market was having its first Farmers Market and was “begging for vendors.” Now, Sivard’s Gene’s Green Thumb has 14 acres, and the Old Market Farmers Market is in its 20th season.

Over the years, Sivard has seen it grow from a simple farmers market into a city bazaar of sorts. “Now you have crafts, meat, cheese, all kinds of beef jerky, bread,” he says. “It is a big event with a really big crowd.”

It’s become so popular, in fact, that Omaha Farmers Market added a second location. Now, you can visit the Old Market on Saturdays 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m. from the first week in May through mid-October and then hit the newer Aksarben Village market on Sundays from 9 a.m.–1 p.m.

“Every market is different,” says Heidi Walz, operations manager for Omaha Farmers Market. “And that means that every season is different, every week is different. We’re rotating new things in each week as the season progresses.”

You can find a harvest calendar, with general times to expect local produce, under the Local Resources tab of the Market’s website (which, by the way, got a 20th anniversary redesign):
omahafarmersmarket.com.

Worthy of noting in that calendar is that the fall is still a great time to hit the market.

“…at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other.” – Heidi Walz, operations manager of Omaha Farmers Market

“The produce stays strong through the end in this area,” Walz says. “So you’re still going to see tomatoes and potatoes and peppers and the greens, and more of the typical table fruits and vegetables that people think of. But the other cool thing is, being in Nebraska, we definitely have some fall crops. You’re going to see the apples, the pumpkins, and the gourds, as well as some of the decorative things, like Indian corn.”

It’s difficult for Walz to choose a favorite thing about the markets. But “I have two little boys, and to be able to go there and see all the varieties of pumpkins,” she says, is one of them.

“It’s fun to go to the pumpkin patch, and we do that. But at the market, we can look at all the different offerings right there, a couple blocks from each other. And the boys look at what is the most unique pumpkin, or the biggest pumpkin, and explore so many different options. It’s just really fun to let them come down and pick out a really unique pumpkin, like maybe a green one that’s really tall and slender,” she says. And, because the farmer is right there, “you can find out way more about your selection.”

Sivard also loves the fall markets. For the veggie lovers, Sivard recommends getting winter squash, like acorn squash, which can be stored in a cool basement and eaten all the way in January.

Even when the weather turns, you can still find treasures at the market. According to Sivard, “One season, we had six inches of snow on the ground and still had a lot of apples.”

And although Oct. 19–20 is the last weekend for the season, you can get a taste of the market in December at the WOWT and Physicians Holiday Market. The Holiday Market is hosted under two large, heated tents in Aksarben Village on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 7–8, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Although the Holiday Market doesn’t have produce, you will find a lot of your favorite regular-season Farmers Market vendors, as well as additional gift vendors.

“It’s just so festive and local, which is cool—to get some of your holiday shopping done in a local way. Such an awesome event.” Walz admits, “It’s one of my favorites.”

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