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Farmers’ Market, with tweaks, returns

BY GRACE SAVIDES | APRIL 30, 2010 7:30 AM

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Jennifer Goodlove will be up late tonight. After picking asparagus, radishes, potatoes, and other fresh produce, she will load it into a walk-in cooler to keep it crisp overnight.

A few hours later, she will be up again, packing her nonperishable merchandise — such as quilted purses and painted wine glasses — and topping off her routine with a huge pot of coffee.

For Goodlove and many more venders than ever before, this is a standard routine come spring. The Iowa City Farmers’ Market is here.

“I’m expecting a bigger crowd at the market and at the business here,” Goodlove said. “I love it.”

This season, there will be 25 more vendors, a change in hours of operation, and wine sellers. These changes stem from suggestions and a 2009 survey of Farmers’ Market patrons and vendors, which also found that 31 percent of patrons were between the ages of 17 and 25.

The market has more than doubled in size since 2005, said Tammy Neumann, the administrative secretary and the Farmers’ Market coordinator at Iowa City Parks and Recreation.

One of the biggest changes is the sale of wine at the market, which required a new city ordinance. Two wine vendors have leases at the market, though neither will attend the market Saturday.

Wednesday hours will begin a half hour earlier — 5 to 7 p.m. — to accommodate people getting off work, Neumann said.

This season’s expansion is joining a statewide trend that sees the number of farmers’ markets on the increase.

According to a 2009 Farmers’ Market Economic Impact Survey, sales have increased by 92 percent in the past five years in Iowa.

State horticulturist Mike Bivens said this may be partly due to the security that people find in knowing where the food grows, which has been a concern in recent food scares.

“You don’t hear about having recalls from farmers’ markets,” Bivens said.

In addition to being safe, farmers’ markets have also contributed to the economy.

Farmers’ markets contribute $71 million to Iowa’s economy with $59.4 million in sales and an additional $12.2 million of personal income effects, according to the 2009 survey. Farmers’ markets can also be attributed for the direct creation of 174 jobs and more than 200 indirectly.

Farmers’ markets also help the community.

“The market is very much a community event,” said Katharine Campbell, a co-owner of Adelyn’s Organic Garden. “It’s not just selling food.”

Vendors also said the farmers’ market is a good way to get in touch with clientele they wouldn’t normally have access to. Bivens said it also helps out farmers who sell specialty crops and may not have another outlet to connect with customers.

As for Goodlove, from Hiawatha, Iowa, she loves coming to Iowa City for the warm, welcoming atmosphere.

“They are savvy consumers,” she said. “You have to make sure that your produce is fresh and that you’re on the cutting edge.”


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