The Daily Iowan

Iowa City cancels Wednesday farmers market after vendor participation declines

Wednesday night farmers markets have seen a steady decline in vendors and participants over the years, causing Iowa City to cancel the event.

The+Iowa+City+Farmers+Market+on+Saturday%2C+May+1%2C+2021.+

Jeff Sigmund

The Iowa City Farmers Market on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter


The Iowa City Farmers Market will no longer host Wednesday night markets for the 2022 season because of a decrease in attendance and participation.

Juli Seydell Johnson, director of Iowa City Parks and Recreation, said Wednesday night markets have experienced a steady decline in both vendors and shoppers over at least the last five years. There were no longer enough of either to justify the Wednesday market, she said.

“We don’t know which came first, fewer vendors or fewer shoppers,” Seydell Johnson said. “But, in either case, there just doesn’t seem to be enough of a market there to justify the staff time and using the ramp and everything else.”

Seydell Johnson said the Wednesday markets used to be fairly large several years ago and would fill the entire Chauncey Swan parking ramp, but numbers have dwindled to only about a dozen vendors.

The Wednesday night markets lack food vendors in particular, she said.

“The farmers market is all about fresh fruits and vegetables,” she said. “We were getting down to maybe one or two food vendors that were even interested.”

Seydell Johnson said the city has tried to increase interest in the market by amping up entertainment and marketing efforts.

“We offered some different incentives for vendors last year with some lower prices or ‘buy-one-get-one’ type of vendor fees,” she said.

Marissa Good, a third-year University of Iowa student who sells handmade jewelry, was an on-call vendor last year. Good attended some Wednesday night markets because of the incentives offered, she said.

“The reason I actually decided to do the Wednesday [market] was because they offered a deal for us … as kind of an incentive, it was like a reduced price,” she said.

Matt Stewart, owner of Noble Bee Honey, has been a vendor at the Iowa City Farmers Market for more than 15 years. Stewart said he and his wife attended both the Wednesday and Saturday markets.

He said he is preparing for the Wednesday market cancellation to hit their business hard, and he was surprised the city made the decision.

“I figured they’d hang in there because we’re not the only ones benefiting — our customers benefit from it,” he said. “There are quite a few that still came through.”

Stewart said he knows a lot of big vendors stopped attending the markets because when the pandemic hit, many of them started Community Supported Agriculture on their farms. The program allows individuals to purchase shares, similar to a subscription or membership, and receive products in return, such as a box full of vegetables.

“When those things start back up again, they had plenty of customers coming to them, so they don’t have to come anymore,” he said. “That knocks down quite a few of those big vegetable vendors that pull the people.”

Seydell Johnson said the changing availability of fresh goods has contributed to the decline in overall, farmers market attendance.

“There are just a lot of other options now with a lot of the online farmer’s markets, with a lot of Community Supported Agriculture groups. Several vendors sell directly and the internet has made that possible,” she said. “I think it’s just the product of just the whole number of changing market conditions.”

Valérie Martin, owner of Valerie’s French Cooking, has been a vendor at the Saturday market for four years. She said she’s noticed a decline in farmers market attendance and vendors overall and found it especially noticeable last year.

RELATED: Iowa City City Council approves installation of new Ped Mall playground

“I think what really pushed people away is that they have to wear a mask,” she said. “I think it scared many people, especially older people … and they didn’t come last year because of that.”

Vendors are found mainly through promotional ventures, she said.

“We do some announcements through press releases, social media, Farmer’s Market webpage, and the city web page for the farmers market — all of that,” she said.

Seydell Johnson said reintroducing Wednesday night markets in the future is possible.

“Market conditions would need to change,” she said. “I really think that some of the online markets have taken away the fruit and vegetable vendors. If, for some reason, that didn’t work out or they decided they wanted to have one in-person venue again, we’d be open to talking about it again in the future.”

Facebook Comments

About the Writer
Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter

she/her/hers
Email: [email protected]

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher is a news reporter and designer for The Daily Iowan. She is a first year...

Navigate Left
  • Linn Street is seen in Iowa City on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2022.

    Downtown

    Iowa City expands free Wi-Fi to Northside

  • Trees in City Park, Iowa City. Emerald Ash Borer Beetles, an invasive species, threatens many ash trees throughout the Midwest. Monday, September 5, 2022.

    Campus

    Iowa City, UI continues to remove ash tree population

  • Iowa City Kids Farmers Market gives opportunity to show local kids’ homegrown, handmade items.

    Downtown

    Iowa City Kids Farmers Market gives opportunity to show local kids’ homegrown, handmade items.

  • El Rays’ Kevin Schroeck scans IDs in front of the bar on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. El Rays recently added a scanner to identify real IDs.

    Downtown

    Elray’s Live and Dive begins using ID Scanner

  • Iowa Citys City Park Pool on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.

    Downtown

    Over 800 Iowa City residents sign petition against City Park Pool changes

  • Public Health Department finds dozens of restaurant health code violations

    Downtown

    Public Health Department finds dozens of restaurant health code violations

  • The Iowa City City Council is seen during a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, June 21, 2022.

    City Council

    Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa proposes educating employers and employees to prevent wage theft

  • Photo illustration.

    City Council

    Iowa City will resume standard utility billing for the first time since March 2020, assistance plans being implemented

  • Short’s Burgers and Shine recently remodeled and reopened their location in downtown Iowa City and are ready to serve customers on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022.

    Downtown

    Short’s Burger and Shine reopening brings menu updates, building renovations

  • Catherines Boutique on North Dubuque Street by Iowa Ave. Thursday, August 25, 2022.

    Downtown

    Iowa City’s Catherine’s Boutique pink bench returned

Navigate Right