Farmers spring into new planting season for Bloomington market Local Business

Jacklynn Uhlig, left, buys a parsley starter Saturday from Richard Niester, right, owner of Diamond’s Homestead, with Beth Uhlig, middle, at the Downtown Bloomington Indoor Farmers Market at Grossinger Motors Arena

Brendan Denison

BLOOMINGTON – Sunday is the first day of spring. But that doesn’t mean it’s too late to get your garden sprouting.

Several vendors stocked tables with produce starters, food products and craft items Saturday at the Downtown Bloomington Indoor Farmers Market at Grossinger Motors Arena.

Hannah Horn, City of Bloomington’s downtown business development specialist and co-manager of the market, said they had 21 vendors there, and they were happy with the attendance. She added that Edge of Normal will have its trailer out next weekend to sharpen knives.

And, vendors will have more produce starters at the first outdoor market on May 7.

The pepper patch

Angella Thompson, chief grower and “plant whisperer” for Thompson Family Farms in Athens, told The Pantagraph spring is her favorite time of the year.


Angella Thompson, chief grower and “plant whisperer” for Thompson Family Farms, rearranges pepper jellies Saturday at the indoor farmers market in downtown Bloomington.

Brendan Denison

“It’s fun to plant. It’s fun to get started, ”she said. “It’s fun to think about new products that might be added to the product line based on what we’re planting and seeding.”

Their farmstead, found 25 minutes north of Springfield, grows crops year-round in greenhouses and a high tunnel. Thomspon said three days ago, she started on indoor spring crops that she’s hoping will be ready for the April market.

The farmer said they’re growing fresh greens, three kinds of radishes, and flowers, including sunflowers, zinnias and cosmos. There’s also lavender and oregano.

Her high tunnel has leaf lettuce, small Bibb lettuce, spinach and kale growing inside. By June, Thompson hopes to bring beets and turnips to the market.

As a farmer, the last thing Thompson can stand is throwing away food. So, she said their product line has evolved to reduce food waste. That lineup includes pepper jellies, salsas, sweetbreads, barbecue sauces and more.

She said elderberries, for example, only have a shelf life of a week. So they get put into pepper jellies, which she said are enjoyed on top of crackers with cream cheese, but can also be cooked with veggies and meat.

A new crop her farm is testing out this year is cranberries. She’s wishing for good results late this summer.

Sprouts for sale

Richard Niester, owner of Diamond’s Homestead, was at the market selling microgreens, and starters for tomato, basil, peppermint and parsley plants. He said some of his tomato starters were first seeded on Valentine’s Day.


Richard Niester, owner of Diamond’s Homestead in Decatur, explains how to start off a tomato plant starter Saturday at the Downtown Bloomington Farmers Market.

Brendan Denison

The Decatur fruits and greens farmer explained that nights aren’t warm enough yet to plant tomatoes outside. However, he said it is time to get carrots, radishes, peas and other cool-weather plants in the ground. His farm is tilling now for radish and carrot crops.

One of his hot-selling plants is Jericho lettuce. Niester said that’s a brand-new indoor green for in his operation.

“It grows really fast,” he said, typically between three and four weeks. For microgreens, Niester stocked spicy salad mixes, leeks, pea shoots and radishes.

He advised people new to food gardening to start out with a few herbs, which he said are easy to take care of. That includes parsley, or peppermint, which Niester said doesn’t need as much water.

“They can dry out and they’ll just look a little droopy, but the moment you give them water they’ll sprout right back up and be looking brand new again,” he said.

And, you’ll be able to taste the difference. He said home-grown foods are juicer and have more nutrients than store-bought foods, because it takes less time for them to get from the garden to the consumer.

It was not a bad day at the market for him. Niester said he brought out over 50 ounces of microgreens, and sold nearly all of them before closing time.

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Normal soap maker

It’s not just good eats and beets you can find at the market. Amanda Fike, owner of Drop Into Health, was there Saturday selling essential oil bath and beauty supplies, plus diffuser jewelry.


Amanda Fike, owner of Drop Into Health, inspects her stocks of serenity socks Saturday at the indoor farmers market in downtown Bloomington. She said a blend of herbal flowers and essential oils are mixed with rice in cloth bags, and can help reduce anxiety.

Brendan Denison

She said her beer soaps are popular because many people haven’t heard of them before. Ingredient No. 1 is beer, such as IPA or wheat ales. The rest is made from coconut, olive, almond and castor oils, plus shea butter.

Her most popular product is serenity socks: a cloth bag filled with rice, and lavender and chamomile flowers, plus sage, patchouli and lavender essential oils.

“My 3-year-old sleeps with one every night,” Fike said, adding it puts her young daughter to sleep fast. The mother and business owner said she keeps serenity socks in her purse, and it helps with anxieties of any kind.

Fike said Saturday had a good turnout at the market.

“People just love the farmers market,” she said. “They’ll come out in any weather for it.

“I’ve been out at the farmers market getting poured on and I’ll still have customers, so everybody loves the market.”


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