The North Iowa Farmers Market (NIFM) started their summer market season on Friday, May 19th despite the rainy weather. Vendor expectations were cautiously optimistic about the day, and rightfully so. The opening market is usually slow, a lot of produce isn’t in season yet AND the market moved this year from the Mills Fleet Farm parking lot. Vendors were pleased to find that customer traffic held steady from the start of the market at 4:00 p.m. until closing at 6:30 p.m.
“I looked at our records and we did 5 times as well [this opening] Friday as we did any other market in May from the previous years”, says NIFM vendor, Becky Huang. Five years ago, Becky and her family established North Iowa Berries and More where they grow, harvest and market chemical free fruits and vegetables among other items.
Based on the comments received by board members and vendors, most customers expressed approval of the market move to their new downtown location at the corner of 1st NE and Delaware in Mason City. Some customers even mentioned that passing the new, highly visible market location caught their attention on their way to the grocery store, allowing them to stock up on fresh, locally grown produce before heading to the grocery store to finish their other shopping.
With every change comes challenge. The new market location occupies a portion of a public parking lot, forcing people to move their cars on market days. The NIFM Board members went around to area businesses to inform them of the potential changes to their parking routines and explained why the new location was selected. While somewhat an inconvenience, the majority of area businesses were excited to hear about the move. In fact, many businesses have expressed interest in collaboration efforts in the future and altering their business hours to accommodate the market.
The NIFM vendors and board members want to thank everyone who braved the rain and cold to come out to support the opening market. After Friday’s success at the new location, the Huangs now have a new problem: “We will need to have three people at the market to handle volume now instead of just two!” Becky laughs.
And what a good problem to have.