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Farmers bid farewell to market season

BY MEGAN SANCHEZ | OCTOBER 31, 2013 5:00 AM

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Approximately 30 people hurried into the downtown Farmers’ Market to escape the rain as the traditional market season came to a close. In past years, vendors would be forced to go elsewhere until April, but this year’s winter months may bring a change.

Iowa City officials are planning a potential winter Farmers’ Market, which would be held at Sycamore Mall, 1660 Sycamore St., on Saturdays.

The market would begin Nov. 23 and run through April 26. Planners are finishing deals with Sycamore Mall officials, so a plan has yet to be completed.

Although city officials attempted a similar set-up in 2011 at Hoover Elementary, their efforts were unsuccessful.

An Iowa City employee, who has worked with the Farmers’ Market for three years, says there is now adequate interest in adding another season.

“We have enough interest and vendors,” Cassidy Bell said. “Having a market available every week for customers in a reliable spot will bring new life into the market and the Sycamore Mall area.”

Vendors have been notified of the possibility, and Bell said quite a few are interested. Ten-year vendor Mary Zahradnik jumped at the opportunity to continue her sales.

“I think it is a very good idea,” she said. “I think we need a winter market in Iowa City,” noting that this would allow her to sell her apples year round.

Market coordinator Tammy Neumann said she sees the economic importance of why citizens continue to venture downtown.

“We have to keep money in the farmers’ pockets,” she said. “Every year, I think we see an increased number of citizens attending.”

For fiscal 2013, the traditional market brought in roughly $80,000, which is $6,000 more than the previous year. Neumann attributed this to the continuing interest and growth of the market.

But organizers are at a standstill when it comes to addressing this continued growth. The current area has hit its limit for space, and officials are unsure of where to go next.

“There are some obstacles,” Neumann said. “We of course can’t block off the Senior Center, and we wouldn’t want to, so at this point we are really not looking at expanding.”

Despite the possibility for a winter market, many farmers bid their farewells amid the afternoon drizzle. The season’s end brings hardship for some area families.

The Osborn family has been selling at the downtown market for 25 years. Although Tamra Osborn holds a full-time position, and her husband Jim works odd jobs, she said when the market season ends, times get a little tougher.

“It definitely makes it harder,” she said. “You just learn to budget and make sure that you do the bulk of your repurchase for next year. It’s just a balancing act.”

Six-year vendor and local meat farmer Lois Pavelka said she loves the downtown market and will continue to support it.

“The people are special,” she said. “The relationships I’ve formed here are really [irreplaceable.] Iowa City people like to know where their food is coming from, and they support us.”

Although Bell has faith the winter market will be a success, she does foresee some challenges.

“Getting started is always a challenge,” she said. “Hopefully we’ll have enough vendors to fill it. I really do think that vendors are excited about this location. I think the eastside will be able to lift it up and support it. We just need to get that consistency.”


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