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Farmers’ Market move draws fire from vendors

BY SHANE ERSLAND | MARCH 23, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City Farmers’ Market Vendor Jerry Dill said he’s “disappointed” city officials are considering moving the market to a new location downtown once a month.

“I hate to hear that. My main concern would be for the customers being out in the open air,” Dill said, noting that the new location — slightly northwest from its current home at Chauncey Swan parking ramp — would be vulnerable to bad weather.

Iowa City city councilors will take their first of three votes on the issue on Tuesday. They would need to change a city code to be able to put the market in another location, said Councilor Mike Wright.

The new site — which would be used this season — encompasses four blocks of Iowa Avenue and Dubuque Street directly east of the Pentacrest.

But weather is still a concern for Dill, who thinks adverse conditions would diminish crowds at the market if it’s moved to an uncovered area. Most market merchants are also worried about having an added expense, should the move go through.

“A complaint for vendors is that the current location provides protection if it is raining,” Wright said. “Vendors will be concerned about having to buy a canopy that they may not ever use again.”

Dill, who has sold kettle corn at the market for 18 years, said a tent would be necessary, regardless of whether it rains.

“If we have a 90-degree day, vendors would have to keep their fruits and vegetables in the shade to keep them from wilting,” Dill said.

The move may not be temporary, depending on whether the experiment is successful. The proposed change in location, if approved, would be reviewed by the council in October, and Wright said judging from attendance and reactions from the public, the new site could become permanent.

Another farmers’ market that was once in a sheltered location — the Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Market — switched to an uncovered site in 2007. Some sellers at that market were opposed to the move and said they think it hurt their businesses.

Robert Kibby, who sold vegetables at the Cedar Rapids Farmers’ Market for 10 years, said it wouldn’t be a good idea to move Iowa City’s market out of the shelter because any produce exposed to the sun would be ruined. Kibby said the goods would be unprotected even if they are under a canopy, noting it is impossible to keep all of the food covered in the morning when the sun is still low.

“By noon, anything you have out on the table is pretty much worthless,” he said.

Kibby said he knows vendors in Cedar Rapids who sell their produce at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market solely because they like the location under the parking ramp.

“The vendors think that the parking ramp location is fabulous,” Kibby said.


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