With the grand opening of its first Farmer’s Market on Saturday, Lenexa will celebrate another milestone in the city’s vision to enhance the lives of its residents.
With a focus on local produce and products, the outdoor market at Lenexa City Center will be open weekly through Oct. 27.
The seed for this long-wished-for market was planted more than six years ago. In response to a Parks and Recreation Master Plan survey, the city’s residents identified a farmers market as one of the top 10 amenities they would like to see in their community.
Lenexa replied to its residents with a decisive “Yes.”
Once the decision was made to go forward with the project, Parks and Recreation looked into ways the market could be incorporated into the City Center campus, which includes a Public Market and Recreation Center that opened in 2017.
“The idea was to utilize the parking garage for market days and spill out into the open commons area,” said Jenny Doty, City of Lenexa recreation supervisor. “The campus provides a gathering space for residents and it’s an excellent partnership with the public market merchants.
“It’s also a place to explore healthy food options and the local economy. With the rec center, we also added the fitness component and opportunities to learn more about health. We can provide a really great experience here for all of our patrons.”
Last September, the city hosted a demonstration market to give residents a taste of what a future Lenexa Farmers Market might be like.
“We had a really good response from our residents and vendors,” Doty said. “They all really enjoyed it.”
Next to Nature, one of Lenexa’s first Public Market vendors, signed on to become one of its first Farmers Market vendors. Based in Tonganoxie, Next to Nature is a family-owned farm that grows and produces a variety of organic items, including honey and honey-based products, as well as chemical- and pesticide-free produce and eggs.
“The Lenexa Public Market fit our profile nicely because they focus on small businesses. We can have a storefront and sell year round without the high cost of a brick and mortar building,” said Chad Gilliland, Next to Nature founder and owner.
Gilliland also likes the “new” aspect of Lenexa’s markets.
“It can be hard to break into an established market,” he said. “We were looking for a new market we could grow with and establish ourselves as a cornerstone. We also love the vibe the outdoor market brings and there are opportunities here for everything we offer.”
Jerry Wohletz, owner of Lawrence-based Wohletz Farm Fresh, agreed.
“We felt Lenexa would be a good fit for our business and we would be a good fit for Lenexa,” he said. “For a market to be successful, it has to be good for all parties involved. There has to be a community that is cooperative and we saw that in Lenexa.”
Wohletz and his family will bring tomatoes, sweet onions, broccoli, potatoes, strawberries, flowers and more to the market.
“The demand is high for locally grown produce,” Wohletz said. “People are interested in where their food comes from and Johnson County is willing to support the produce grown here.”
Wohletz and his family also like the one-on-one customer experience farmers’ markets offer.
“We like looking the customer in the eye and meeting people face to face,” he said. “There’s nothing more satisfying then someone saying that a tomato they bought from you is the best tomato they’ve ever had. It’s part of the success and satisfaction.”
As part of their overall vision, the Lenexa Farmers Market is committed to “local” and require all items be produced within 250 miles of Lenexa. The market has space for 35 vendors in both garage and tent spaces. The market will also have a featured artist each week, along with live music. Artists and entertainers who live within 250 of the Lenexa City Center are welcome to apply.
Because the market will primarily be located under the awning of the City Center parking garage, markets will typically be held rain or shine. If weather is threatening, patrons can visit the market website for weather closure updates.
The Lenexa Farmer’s Market will be open April 21 through Oct. 27 from 8 a.m. until noon. It will also be open Tuesdays from May 29 through Aug. 28, 8 a.m. until noon.
The metro Kansas City area offers many farmers’ markets throughout the year. If you’d like to explore these markets, check out this directory from the USDA.