Opinion | Iowa City Farmer’s Market needs to incentivize to gain more visitors

Iowa City Farmer’s Market will not be open on Wednesdays because it needs more visitors and vendors.


Jeff Sigmund

Many different food aromas filled the air at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market on Saturday, May 1, 2021.

Luke Krchak, Opinions Columnist

Farming is symbolic to Iowa state as agriculture is one of the largest industries in the state. As farmers were hit by the pandemic, however, the decreased use of the farmers market is further causing financial hardships for some farmers.

Online retail made it easy for people to buy organic produce. But to keep in-person farmers markets running, people need to visit the farmers market.

The pandemic was a double punch for farmers market vendors in Iowa City, as COVID-19 pushed them online in 2020, and a dwindling number of shoppers returned in person last year. This led to a decrease in both vendors and visitors.

It has become much easier for vendors to sell produce on websites like Misfits Market. But this takes away from the number of vendors that sign up for the farmers market in Iowa City.

Online markets do not guarantee that you are buying from local vendors or selling to residents.

Without the Iowa City Farmers Market, people will have less opportunity to buy from local farmers. This hurts farmers economically as they would have more trouble selling their produce.

Supporting local farmers also helps build a community knowledge of problems both vendors and visitors are experiencing and how they can help one another.

For the 2022 Farmers Market season, the Iowa City Parks and Recreation department has removed the Wednesday time slot, leaving it only open on Saturdays.

The removal of Wednesday might be good for now, but this could be indicative to a downhill trend for the Farmers Market. If not enough people show up to Saturday markets, then more vendors are likely to leave, which may reach a point where the in-person Farmers Market will close down.

The department head of Iowa City’s Parks and Rec department is hopeful that Wednesdays of future farmers market seasons will come back. Until then, however, more people need to show up on Saturdays to prove to other vendors that people would buy from them at the Farmers Market.

“Market conditions would need to change,” Juli Seydell Johnson, director of Iowa City Parks and Recreation said in a previous article from The Daily Iowan. “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.”

One way to keep vendors would be through incentives like stipends or lower registration cost. Bit, incentivizing more vendors to come to the Farmers Market is not sustainable for the future of the Farmers Market.

To bring more vendors back, Iowa City needs to bring more visitors in. One way for Iowa City to do this is to collaborate with other local businesses, by giving out gift cards or coupons to those places for every purchase at the Farmers Market.

This way the incentives to bring in people to the Farmers Market are also helping other local businesses, not just local farmers.

In time, if Iowa City carries out these incentives for small business, enough vendors will come back to the farmers market at pre-pandemic levels, and Wednesdays can return. But, for the Farmers Market to keep running in the meantime, it needs the support of both local residents and University of Iowa students.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.