Some customers are put off by the crowds at large farmers markets, but I think it’s exciting for the vendors, who often do more business in one day than they can in several weeks of smaller markets.
With that in mind, the next Downtown Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. to noon, this Saturday, Aug. 2. More than 200 vendors and 16,000 customers pack the streets of downtown.
As much as I appreciate the downtown market, my heart is with the smaller markets where the farmers, bakers and craftspeople might not necessarily know your name, but remember what you like to buy and can take the time to chat about how their garden is growing or their latest baked confections.
So, it was disappointing to hear that Marion has discontinued its Wednesday farmers markets at City Square Park.
Officially, a news release this week from the city simply noted that the Wednesday afternoon markets had ended, but the Saturday markets would continue, from 8-11:30 a.m. at the park’s Depot, through Sept. 27.
I caught up with Marion Parks Director Mike Carolan, who said the decision came from the vendors to discontinue on Wednesdays.
“It was actually their choice,” said Carolan, adding that just four vendors were signed up for Wednesdays, but at one recent market, none of them were able to attend.
That gave a bad perception to customers, who might not return for the Saturday markets, where at least a dozen vendors usually participate, he said.
A variety of vegetables, baked goods, wine, meat and crafts are sold at the Saturday markets at City Square Park. The venue was new to the market last year and is in a visible, central location of Marion.
While it can be challenging to compete on Saturdays when the Downtown market in Cedar Rapids is happening, Carolan said “everyone’s happy with the location.”
If you haven’t been to the Marion market, this is prime time, as a wide variety of produce is in season in August. Better yet, check out all of the smaller markets (and large ones!) in your area. Find dates, locations and other information on the Homegrown list.
Read on for information from the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture’s Office about Farmers Market Week in Iowa, coming up next week.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey today encouraged Iowans to take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables available at the more than 220 farmers markets in Iowa as part of National Farmers Market Week, which runs from Aug. 3 to 9.
“We continue to see growing demand for fresh locally grown produce and farmers markets are a great place to find healthy and delicious Iowa grown fruits, vegetables, meats and other products,” Northey said. “National Farmers Market Week, and every week, is a great time to visit your local farmers market to support the vendors who are there and enjoy some of the great food grown in this state.”
As part of National Farmers Market Week, Northey highlighted the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Programs. These programs provide eligible low-income seniors as well as women and children in Iowa with checks that can be redeemed for fresh, locally grown produce at authorized farmers markets and farm stands from June 1 through October 31, 2014.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship administers the programs in partnership with the Iowa Department of Public Health and Iowa Department on Aging. For more information contact Paul Ovrom, Program Administrator, at 515-242-6239 or at Paul.Ovrom@iowaagriculture.gov<mailto:Paul.Ovrom@iowaagriculture.gov>.
Northey also encouraged Iowans to take advantage of the free Iowa Farmers Market app for smartphones that can help Iowans locate the farmers markets in their area.
The app allows users to find the farmers market closest to them by using GPS location services or to search for specific farmers markets by city or zip code. Once they have located a market, the user can view the hours of the market, browse a list of vendors and see a phone number and email address of the market manager. App users can also leave reviews of the market and vendors and upload their photos to share with others.
The app is free to download and is available through Apple’s App store and Google Play by searching “Iowa Farmers Markets.” The app for android phones can also be found at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.utc.titaniumapns2, and the link for Apple devices is http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ia-farmer-mkts/id501591188?ls=1&mt=8.
The app was developed for the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship using funds from the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Grant funds are targeted for projects that enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that benefit the entire specialty crop industry.