Thursday Greene Square Farmers' Market Struggling to Bring in Customers

By Cindy Hadish

Earnestine Clark of Cedar Rapids purchases tomatoes from Linda Kirkwood of Kirkwood Sun Country Produce in Hopkinton at the farmer’s market at Greene Square Park in downtown Cedar Rapids on Thursday, June 10, 2009. (Cliff Jette)

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By Becky Ogann

CEDAR RAPIDS - Teresa White envisions a thriving farmers market in Greene Square Park, with live music and downtown customers dining on-site or picking up a bottle of wine and meal staples on their way home.

That vision is not yet reality.

With the new city library next to the park still years away and the downtown continuing to recover from the 2008 flood, the fledgling Greene Square market hasn’t caught on with the fire that White had hoped.

The markets run 4-6 p.m. Thursdays through Aug. 26, but few people seem to realize the vendors are there.

“It’s a beautiful park; it’s a beautiful setting for a market,” said White, the city’s farmers market supervisor.

The large-scale Downtown Farmers Markets, held twice monthly on Saturdays, have been thriving with crowds in the tens of thousands, but Thursday markets in the park at times only attract 50 to 100 customers.

A growing number of farmers markets competing for business and the slow economy could be factors, White said.

She moved Thursday’s market last year from the city parking lot at Eighth Avenue SE, in part, to help rebuild downtown.

While the market seemed to catch on last year, this summer has been a different story.

White worries that some of the dozen or so vendors will pull out before the market has a chance to succeed.

Laura Strabala, 21, of rural Lisbon, said the business she and her sister operate, Wild Prairie Acres, will examine their finances before deciding whether or not to continue at the market.

The two sell bread, vegetables, jellies and home-roasted coffee beans at five different farmers markets, but find their slowest business at the Greene Square market.

Strabala said the 50-mile round trip adds to the cost of doing business.

“It might not be feasible to keep going,” she said.

White plans to move vendors closer to the Third Avenue SE side of the park this week.

The tables have been set up on the Fifth Street side because of parking and shade, but she hopes they will be more visible on the busier street.

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