Unseasonably pleasant weather this morning gave way to the creation of a very, very messy counter top this evening. The beautiful day carried me downtown and after 2 hours I carried back bags full of fresh rosemary, yellow heirloom cherry tomatoes, kale, a spaghetti squash, my favorite salsa, goat cheese from the happiest free range goats (and goat owners) I know, gladiolas, and 3 small magnets. As I fumbled through crowds of local supporters, I overheard an announcer from a mobile radio station being broadcast at the corner of 3rd ave and 2nd st. The voice reported a record number of vendors at today's farmers' market. An extra block was even dedicated to the market today -- very exciting.

With foreshadowing, we were warned of this handsome market growth. Updated numbers coming from the USDA earlier this month recorded over 7,000 new farmer's markets opening all around the country so far this year (a 17% increase since 2010). CR was not represented in that figure as we haven't had an increase in the number of markets held. But - even better - we have had an astonishing and optimistic ~66% increase in market visitors. That's right, folks. Just about 15,000 patrons (up from 9,000 in 2010) have been accounted for at each market this year.

Are they bored? Just curious? Did some talk about ethical eating and obesity rates and the end of the world finally sink in? Does it matter? If not for anything else, and for whatever the reason, I am proud of Cedar Rapidians for getting out in loyalty to our extraordinary farmers' market disguised as a giant street carnival.

No word yet on the rise in dog attendance, but I know one very special pup who made an appearance at her first CR farmers' market today. The heartland's most beloved dog will dream of this day - the day at least 15 strangers pet her, she watched a juggler, listened to a band, chose/stole her own toy from a sale bin, and ate some bread that someone dropped in the street - for a long, long time.

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