Farmers Market under new management

BY BEN MARKS | APRIL 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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It may not look like it when the booths open this spring, but the Iowa City Farmers’ Market will soon be under new management.

On Thursday, the Iowa City Parks & Recreation Department signed a one-year, $55,996 contract to outsource management of the market to the Cedar Rapids-based event-management company Avacentre.

Parks & Recreation Director Michael Moran said there will be no changes in how the market is run, and most of the staff currently operating the market will remain the same.

“Avacentre is basically hiring all our staff,” Moran said. “They’re the same staff we’ve had over the years.”

Avacentre event services coordinator and Iowa City representative A.J. Goldsmith said just as in past years, there will be a full-time market manager and six part-time employees working to keep the market running.

He also agreed with Moran, saying, “Honestly, there won’t be any changes. There won’t even be a new name for the checks.”

But for Iowa City, the switch in management will bring more pronounced changes, including saving the city around $8,000 to $10,000 a year.

Parks & Recreation administrative secretary Tammy Neumann has overseen the market for almost a decade now.

However, some layoffs in the department resulted in redistribution of some duties.

Neumann suddenly found herself with too many responsibilities and was unable to continue operating the market. The next decision was to outsource the management to relieve her of some workload.

“I will not be able to dedicate as much of my time as I have in my past because of additional duties,” Neumann said. “I’m the secretary for the director, and often times, I’m not able to do things for him in a timely manner during the market.”

While the market is going, Neumann said, managing it usually takes up around 60 percent of her time.

Neumann said managing the market usually starts in January with sending vendors information about registration.

From there, it’s such items as sending invoices, organizing preseason meetings, advertising the market, writing media releases, and then during the season, making sure all spots are full and organizing backup vendors if some people drop out.

However, with the new contract, all those responsibilities have now been transferred to Avacentre.

“Our goal is to make the transition as seamless as possible,” Goldsmith said. “We’re excited to be a part of the Iowa City Farmers’ Market and serve the community in this way.”

This is not the first time the city has partnered with Avacentre; the company manages events for the Terry Trueblood Recreation Area Park Lodge, the Riverside Festival Stage, and the Ned Ashton House.

Moran said the prior relationship helped make the contract negotiation go smoother.

After the year is up, the city will review the Avacentre contract to decide whether to renew it. However, Moran said, he expects everything to go smoothly based on experience.

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