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Market gets nonprofit status in challenging year

Nothing could keep a crowd of people from the Cartwright Farmers Market on Saturday. Numerous masked people braved the COVID-19 pandemic and the strong winds which knocked over some stand features.

This year has been a strange one for Cartwright Farmers Market.

“I think ‘strange’ is an understatement for 2020,” Manager Trisha Wilder said.

Despite the setbacks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho, Cartwright Farmers Market did obtain a 501(c)3, or nonprofit, status.

“Which means we will begin seeking grants to grow our market and update our property,” Wilder said. “We have some big dreams and plans but we are not ready to share those with the community just yet.”

Wilder said they are planning the last craft fair to take place Oct. 17 with some Halloween-themed vendors. They are even planning a Trunk & Treat on Oct. 28, during the last Wednesday evening of this year’s season. The last day for the 2020 market will be Oct. 31.

So, there has been some good farmers market news in a year full of challenges. The derecho, in particular, had a devastating effect on many vendors. Some were forced to end the season early.

“Produce vendors we have lost include Higgins Harvest, Vining Urban Farm, Wi Gardens, and CoGunn’s Country Goods,” Wilder said. “Long’s Sweet Corn was also forced to end their season early as large amounts of their remaining harvest were unsalvageable. I personally made sure to buy my winter stores of corn immediately after the derecho, knowing it was going to be in short supply soon. Some of the other produce vendors lost large chunks of their harvests, like Appleberry Farm, but still had enough to supply the market. A few other producers and a baker were also forced to end their seasons due to property damage and the extensive clean-up.”

Yet on Saturday, the market was a flurry of activity. Vendors were selling their wares as more than 400 customers browsed, gripping sacks full of goods.

“Surprisingly our finances are in great shape,” Wilder said. “Our vendors are quite happy with their sales this season, some of the tenured vendors reporting their best sales yet this season. Traffic was slow at the beginning, as the pandemic was still new and many were unsure. But as masks and social distancing became common, the number of visitors began to climb.”

July and August were the busiest months for Cartwright Farmers Market, with more than 200 visitors on each day. Craft fair days draw more than 350 customers.

“Even though we had to cancel all of our ‘extras’, our market had done very well this year and still managed to grow,” Wilder said. “Crossing my fingers that nothing more happens to hinder our 2021 season, I project that our market group will grow even more and we will be offering even more to our community. We want our market to offer more than just shopping. We want it to be a gathering place as well; a place to enjoy. This year we had 22 full-time and five part-time vendors. I believe next year we will have even more vendors.”

Ways Wilder would like to grow the market include adding members to the management team. Now that they have a 501(c)3 status, she will seek grants to cover extra the cost of supplies and resources to utilize in the event of emergencies. The team also wants to buy a trailer to use during the market to house a portable handwashing station, operating supplies and children’s activities.

“I am proud of my vendors adapting to the changes and moving forward with our market between the pandemic and the derecho,” Wilder said.

Contact Lana Bradstream at 641-753-6611 or lbradstream@timesrepublican.com.

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