Nestled along a quiet residential street in downtown Fort Wayne, an unassuming barn-like structure comes to life once per week with the vibrant sights, sounds, and smells of one of Fort Wayne’s oldest community staples. The Historic South Side Farmers Market lives up to its name―the weekly market been an agricultural and commercial pillar of Fort Wayne for nearly a century. Located on 3300 Warsaw Street, it hosts dozens of vendors every Saturday between Easter and mid-December from 7 AM to 1 PM.
Strolling through the two long wings of the market’s H-shaped building, you’ll find a bit of everything: vendors on the west side offer local produce, hormone-free meat, eggs, honey, preserves, baked goods, herbs, and more. The east side houses a flea market with antiques, handcrafts, books, and jewelry. South Side Farmers Market has been a Saturday morning tradition for patrons and vendors since 1926, and continues to draw crowds who resonate with the quality food, community engagement, and local business that it fosters.
In addition to its regular fare, the South Side Farmers Market also has a variety of seasonal offerings and special events throughout the year. Earlier this year, Indiana State Representative Phil GiaQuinta partnered with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to give away free tree seedlings to South Side Farmers Market patrons. During my recent visit to the market, I noticed a beautiful array of flowers and plants available for the summer months. Perfect for front porches like mine that desperately need a refreshing pop of color as the weather warms up!
Ann DeGrandchamp, Secretary of the Allen County Ag. Producers, has witnessed the long history of South Side Farmers Market firsthand. Her grandfather, Frederick J. Schlup, was an Aboite Township farmer who helped to organize and build the market 92 years ago. South Side Farmers Market played a central role in future generations of DeGrandchamp’s family, as her father Richard T. Schlup continued to be closely involved with the South Side Farmers Market as he pursued the family produce business.
With such an extensive track record of family involvement, DeGrandchamp considers the market to be “in her blood,” and still participates as a board member and as a vendor with her husband Jack and son Daryl. South Side Farmers Market holds a special place in her heart, just as it does for many of its regular patrons.
“I’m pretty attached to the market,” says DeGrandchamp. “I’m pretty attached to healthy eating too. While there is a lot to enjoy about the market, I’d have to say my favorite aspect is the opportunity to sell―and buy myself―the various fresh produce that is in season.”
DeGrandchamp is far from alone in valuing local and seasonal food―a 2014 study showed that 83% of Americans consider sustainability and 89% consider where a product is produced when making food purchasing decisions. The “locavore” and seasonal eating movements have gained traction in recent years, and many Fort Wayne families and individuals are beginning to think more critically about where their food comes from and how it’s produced. South Side Farmers Market is an invaluable community resource for those who want to eat seasonally, buy locally, and form relationships with the farmers who provide for the Fort Wayne community.
It’s easy to see why DeGrandchamp speaks highly of South Side Farmers Market. Entering the marketplace, patrons are met with an immediate sense of a close-knit community. She notes that “the history of the market” is what set it apart from others in the area:
“So many customers comment that they’ve been coming to market their entire lives, or hadn’t been there since they were a child… The vendors develop a relationship with the ‘regulars’ and it truly feels like a mixture of family gathering there on Saturday mornings.”
That laid-back family atmosphere is apropos for a relaxed summer morning―the market is busy yet calm as patrons leisurely browse the offerings of vendors who are open to questions or a friendly chat. Vendors arrange their products with care in simple displays, letting the vivid colors of the ripe produce shine. The 92-year-old building is well-loved and its historical charm beautifully maintained. The center of the market is even dotted with wood-burning stoves, where patrons are encouraged to have a seat and warm up on rainy days.
“It provides a covered shelter that can withstand any kind of weather that Mother Nature sends our way―at least for the past 90 years,” jokes DeGrandchamp.
The Historic South Side Farmers Market has withstood not only the test of weather, but of time, remaining just as relevant and important for Fort Wayne families as it was nearly a century ago. It is a place where patrons value the quality of their food and their relationships with local farmers, and they are valued by the vendors and market organizers in return. That, to me, is the very definition of community.