Eastern Iowa farmers markets shrink due to lack of vendors

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – The farmer’s market in Noelridge Park on Wednesday afternoon featured two vendors and fewer than 10 customers in the first hour.

Getting vendors has been a challenge for a number of events, and the shortage 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; in the future it will be only on Saturdays. The market in Noelridge Park went from three days a week (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) to just Wednesday.

Marty Condon said she was “heartbroken” over the loss of the Mount Vernon market. “It was a religion. I would go to all the farmers markets.” On Wednesday, she drove to Noelridge Park looking for vegetables, but found none. “I don’t know if it’s too hot to get all that new stuff out today, or if people just aren’t doing it. I dont know.”

Rick Elliott is one of the key marketers in Mount Vernon. He confirmed that there were not enough providers for this to happen. He said that he believed that many of them had opened their own stores and started selling directly to customers.

Brad Barker is the Iowa City Recreation Superintendent. He said the Iowa City market was unable to meet its quota for vendors on Wednesday, which contributed to the cancellation. He added that the decline in attendance had been going on since before the pandemic.

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

Bryant also believed that a contributing factor was that the community of people who participated in the markets was aging. “The regulars who make the circuit of the market are beginning to withdraw… People will circulate, wear. But we need more people.”

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