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Eastern Iowa Farmers Markets scale back due to lack of vendors

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 10:28 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Farmers Market at Noelridge Park Wednesday afternoon consisted of two vendors and fewer than ten customers in the first hour.

Getting vendors has been a challenge for a number of events, and the lack has led to fewer days on the schedule. The Mount Vernon market did not return for 2022. The Iowa City market will no longer be held on Wednesdays; going forward it will just be Saturdays. The market at Noelridge Park went from three days a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—to just Wednesday.

Marty Condon said she was “heartbroken” at the loss of the market in Mount Vernon. “It was a religion. I would go to all the farmers markets.” Wednesday, she drove to the one in Noelridge Park looking for vegetables, but she didn’t find them. “I don’t know if it’s just too hot to bring all those fresh things out today, or whether people just aren’t doing it. I don’t know.”

Rick Elliott is one of the people instrumental in putting on the market in Mount Vernon. He confirmed there were not enough vendors to make it happen. He said he believed many of them had opened their own shops and started selling directly to customers.

Brad Barker is the Recreation Superintendent for Iowa City. He said the Iowa City market could not meet its quota for Wednesday vendors, which contributed to the cancellation. He added that decreasing attendance had been happening since before the pandemic.

COVID-19 prompted many business owners to change their models. For Wesley Bryant, one of the two vendors in attendance Wednesday, it forced him to close his coffee shop, but he actually shifted gears toward markets and online sales. He believed the struggle to find vendors and the resulting smaller markets would not be a problem for his business. “When space opens up, something usually fills that space.”

Bryant also believed a contributing factor was that the community of people participating in markets is aging. “The regulars that do the market circuit are starting to retire...People will circulate out, attrition. But we need more people.”

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