Iowa City to test year-round farmers’ market

BY KATIE HEINE | MARCH 21, 2011 7:20 AM

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Baked goods, fresh eggs, and homemade soaps may soon be merely steps away for Phyllis Rosenwinkel.

Only tall grass separates the 65-year-old’s house and Wood Elementary School, where a yearlong indoor farmers’ market may be implemented if three upcoming test markets receive strong interest.

“It would be wonderful,” said Rosenwinkel, who moved to the Wood Elementary area in 2002.

She said she usually avoids the downtown market because it’s often congested. But a market a few hundred feet away would be quite convenient, she said.

The Iowa City Neighborhood Services Division, with support from the Iowa City Farmers’ Market, is coordinating three upcoming indoor markets at Wood Elementary, 1930 Lakeside Drive.

After the third session, officials will survey the vendors to see if a year-round market is worth pursuing, said Marcia Bollinger, the Neighborhood Services coordinator.

Officials created the Wood Marketplace in response to desires from numerous vendors at the Iowa City summer market, Bollinger said.

As of March 17, 26 vendors committed to all three tests.

Though fruits and vegetables are seasonal, many homemade and homegrown goods are not, she said.

Dennis Rehberg of Walker sells pork year-round and saw success at Iowa City’s holiday market.
“It’s just tremendous business,” he said.

Though Iowa City is nearly 50 miles from the Rehberg’s residence, he said being able to gather a large number of customers in one place is worth the trek.

Iowa City is an area of particular interest to Rehberg because his pork is fed naturally and is free of antibiotics, hormones, and MSG.

“People are more concerned about what’s in their food in Iowa City,” he said.

Many surrounding towns have seen success with winter markets.

Mount Vernon experimented with such a market about five years ago because it had many vendors with non-seasonal products, said Mickey Miller, the market manager.

“They wanted additional opportunities to sell in the winter,” she said.

The first few years were “reasonably successful” and soon, more vendors were requesting to participate, Miller said.

Today, around 20 vendors gather twice a month for the indoor market.

Springville, Iowa, is in its third year of hosting a winter market and has about a dozen vendors each season, said Lena Gilbert, the market manager.

While Gilbert said she was happy to hear Iowa City is considering something similar, she said it could have an effect on smaller markets such as hers. Half of Springville’s vendors have contracts in Iowa City and would likely opt for a higher traffic market, she said.

But she said she supports all local markets and remains optimistic about the future of the Springville market.

“You never know what’s around the corner,” Gilbert said.

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