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Iowa City cancels winter farmer's market

BY ALYSSA GUZMAN | OCTOBER 29, 2014 5:00 AM

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Because the Iowa City’s Winter Farmers’ Market will be discontinued, some vendors say they are unhappy losing income from the market.

“I don’t understand how losing this source of income to the city from the holiday markets is justifiable,” vendor Kristina Arnold said. “They obviously don’t care about the vendors and the customers who rely on downtown shopping.”

The expected opening of Lucky’s Market in 2015, paired with the lack of vendors, caused city officials to close down the market.

Thus far, Iowa City is not looking for an alternative location to host a new winter farmers’ market.

“The Sycamore Mall allowed us space for a winter market, and we tried it last year,” said Tammy Neumann, the Farmers’ Market coordinator. “A few vendors were happy and did well, but it was not enough.”

Typically, there are two holiday markets in November and December every year, but vendors wanted a winter market so they could come year-round.

Neumann said the Winter Farmers’ Market averaged eight to 10 vendors at a time, but it was still over budget.

Typically, vendors pay the city for their stalls. The revenue that comes in from vendors pays the market staff for things such as advertising and supplies, which makes it self-sufficient.

The regular summer market is capable of being self-sufficient, but the winter one last year wasn’t.

“I didn’t think it was a bad market,” vendor Mary Zahradnik said. “It never really got the support it needed. A lot of farmers producing in the winter are going to institutions to sell.”

Though some farmers are turning to institutions, Neumann said, she has been referring them to alternative market options.

“On Saturdays, there is a winter market in Mount Vernon,” she said. “I have been referring people who have expressed interest to contact the Johnson County Fairgrounds.”

Brenda Christner, the business manager of the Johnson County Agricultural Association, said she thinks the closing of Iowa City’s Winter Farmers’ Market will increase vendors at the Johnson County Fairgrounds.

“I think it’ll make a big difference,” Christner said. “Starting Nov. 9, I’m going to be having at least 20 vendors, if not more.”

Last year, the association hosted a farmers’ market, which Christner said was successful. This year, the county’s winter market will run on the second and fourth Sundays of every month from Nov. 9 to April 26.

Despite the expected success, some farmers are still displeased with the alternative options.

“The Iowa City one was always better,” Zahradnik said. “It’s a lot harder to physically get yourself into the [other markets]. It’s a lot of work. What the city provided was nice and very adequate.”

Other farmers, who financially depended on the winter market, are disappointed as well.

“I love the Iowa City Farmers’ Market downtown,” Arnold said. “It has been my only source of income for the past five plus years. I am very upset with the city for moving the holiday markets to Sycamore and then canceling them altogether.”


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