FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – If you’re heading out and about on a Friday through the rest of the summer into the fall on the southeast side of Fort Wayne, stop in the Johnnie Mae Farm Market from 2 PM to 6 PM. The market is located in the Renaissance Pointe Neighborhood at 2518 Winter Street and the operation is a partnership between the City of Fort Wayne’s Office of Housing & Neighborhood Services and the Purdue Extension – Allen County office.
The market sells locally grown produce. Kale and collards are their two most sold products. This time of the year, red, green, and cherry tomatoes are available to purchase, along with a big crop of carrots, Swiss chard, squash, zucchini, and green beans. While supplies last, there is also a little bit of eggplant, okra, and purple hull peas. Some mustard greens have also been planted recently. All of these items come right from the garden behind the building.
You can also take home seeds to plant your own produce for free. There are boxes of community-donated seeds that the market in tern donates back to the public. You can use the seeds to grow your own food at home instead of having to go to the grocery store to buy produce.
The southeast side of Fort Wayne does not have the best access to fresh food, which makes this neighborhood market important. Residents near this market have to drive or take the bus at least three miles one way to get to a grocery store. In fact, prices at Johnnie Mae’s are 50 to 75 percent less than the grocery store prices. It costs just two dollars for a pound of collards and a pound of kale. Everything else is listed as costing one dollar.
This is the second year Cameron Ruhl has been the Farm Manager. He takes care of the garden and helps run the market on Fridays.
For Ruhl, the growing this summer has been a success so far. The drought of late May into June was challenging and there have been some moments of heat index values up around 100 degrees. An above ground irrigation system has helped get the garden through the driest stretches, otherwise Ruhl would have had to hand water for at least half a day.
The outlook looks great in the coming weeks, as now the area has been removed from being in a drought. Spurts of rain continue to help. Ruhl looks forward to the fall and appreciates the days with high temperatures in the 70s, as the cool mornings help the taste of collards and kale; the cooler weather makes them taste a little bit sweeter.
The downside is Japanese beetles have been eating everything in the garden and it has been a challenge to control them. Ruhl tries to spray as minimally as possible so the food in the garden can grow as organically as possible. It is hard to fend the beetles away without spraying, but it is a problem that can be dealt with by watching the garden closely.
Ruhl is definitely looking forward to the fall and keeping the market open until around when the growing season ends. He also encourages the growth of organic food right in your backyard; you do not have to be certified.