FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The YLNI Famers Market on Barr Street in downtown Fort Wayne has become a Saturday morning tradition for thousands of people. The market has grown immensely over the past 18 seasons, from an average of 30 vendors and 200 attendees each week in its early seasons, to an average of 150 vendors and 10,000 attendees today.

Market Manager Ashley Wagner says the credit goes to the vendors who play a huge role in the market’s success story.

“It’s the vendors who are bringing people down here,” she said. “They each have their own unique, distinct personality, an incredible smile that brings people back, and we wouldn’t have this market without each and every one of our vendors.”

Wendy Flotow has been with the market since its first season. She and her husband own Country Garden Farm & Market. They spend their Saturday mornings selling flowers and produce to both new and returning customers.

“People just line up to get our flowers, and it’s just fun to see these people. We have the same people come every week. One week they’ll buy one bouquet and they love them so much and then they buy 4 more,” she said with a smile. “It’s bumper to bumper with people and it’s fun, it’s just a fun atmosphere.”

Farmers Market attendees, like Cassie Beer, say they enjoy the market, and are happy to support and shop local.

“It’s really great to walk through and feel like you can spend your dollars locally and buy local coffee, local goods, local art, it just feels  good to support FW in a really tangible way,” Beer said. “It brings all kinds of people together, downtown, and we’re supporting our community in an economic way, in an arts way, in a family way, there’s so many great things about it.”

“It brings a nice vibrant feel to the downtown Fort Wayne area, that you couldn’t say years ago. Events like this, it really is positive for everybody,” said shopper Kurt Thieman, who noted the market’s growth. “This is so much bigger than what it was a few years ago, it’s quadruple the size and there’s so many more people and so many more shops and stalls.”

Saturday August 13, the market welcomed its 100,000 attendee for the summer season. Market volunteer Kevin Butts surprised Perri Faison with a gift basket full of products from some of the market’s vendors.

The YLNI Farmers Market is also currently ranked the #1 Farmers Market in the state of Indiana, according to Farmland Trust which runs a competition every summer showcasing markets across the nation. It’s also ranked 7th in the Midwest and 28th in the nation.

Through September 19, supporters can vote for their favorite markets.

Other Farmers Market in Fort Wayne:

  • Ft. Wayne Farmers Market, every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Wednesdays from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. at McCulloch Park
  • South Side Farmers Market, Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 3300 Warsaw Street