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The Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market

The Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market began in 1976 with 15 vendors, around 200 shoppers, and was open between July and September. Today, the Market boasts over 200 vendors with an average of 18,000 visitors every Saturday from May through October.

Shopping at the Downtown Farmers' Market is a great way to support local agriculture by buying direct from local farmers and producers. According to the Market's website, Iowa producers from 51 counties offer fresh vegetables, Iowa raised meats, baked goods and so much more.

We visit the Market several times throughout the season and always find something new to try. Of course, we also love to eat our way through the Market - the variety of prepared foods is amazing and takes care of that early morning hunger with ease.

On a recent visit, these fruit tarts were pretty tempting.

As were these cupcakes.

But we decided to hold out until we found the pupusas. Grant loves these Salvadoran stuffed masa flatbreads, and they sure keep busy cranking them out on a busy Market morning.

Doesn't that look good? I did manage to snag a bite and it was delicious.

If you're not quite sure what's what with all of those veggies everywhere, you definitely want to stop here.

Larry Cleverley, of Cleverley Farms, is always willing to explain what is in season, what he has available and even how you may want to prepare what you've purchased (his recipe for Spring Garlic Vinaigrette is excellent). He also may offer you a sample of some Niman Ranch meats, which you should gladly accept. That's Larry there in the red hat with all of his beautiful certified natually grown produce.

Grant hit the Market on his own last weekend and came home with some of these gorgeous Baby Red Tropea Cippolini onions.

He also got a bunch of these bright and beautiful radishes.

Larry always lets shoppers know what he's bringing to the Market through his website, or you can follow him on Twitter at @dirtfarmerlarry.

This year Larry is sharing his space with the guys from Tacopocalypse.

Local chef Sam Auen serves up some original tacos with hand-pressed tortillas that you definitely need to try. The menu changes weekly, but you won't be disappointed with any of the selections.

Grant tried the Barbacoa, or beef cheek, tacos, while I stuck with the more familiar Braised Pork Shoulder. Both were full of flavor and fresh ingredients. Here's what was left of Grant's beef cheek taco when we realized we hadn't taken a photo yet.

Check out their website for what's on the menu for the Market or follow them on Twitter at @tacopocalypse.

A new vendor this year at the Des Moines Downtown Farmers' Market is The Cheese Shop of Des Moines.

CJ and Kari have Iowa's first cheese shop coming to Des Moines this fall, but they currently offer several Regional American Artisan cheeses at the Market.

 They are friendly and knowledgable so be sure to stop by and check out their selection next time you're at the Market. 

You can also follow them on Twitter at @CheeseShopDSM and they do have a Facebook page.

Grant picked up a nice wedge of Dunbarton Blue.

Another thing we love about the Market is the amazing selection of plants. Cut flowers, starter veggie plants, hanging baskets, it's all there.

This is one of the more unusual flower vendors - Iowa Orchids. Jim has a huge variety of these beauties and will help you select just the perfect one.

Of course, choosing just one may be not be so easy.

When we were at the Market over Memorial Day weekend (the wet rainy weekend you'll remember if you were there), morel mushrooms were available. Bring the whole piggy bank.

The Downtown Farmers' Market is really one of the best in the country and we have it right here in Des Moines. Make sure you get there at least once - but if you're like us, you'll go several times to cash in on what's in season.

And here's a tip from us - the earlier you get there, the less crowded it is and the more selection you'll see. Here's a recent Saturday morning at 7am. See what I mean?

We'll be back with some features on our favorite vendors, so stay tuned. For more information, check out the Des Moines Farmers' Market website. Eat local!