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Fresh faces coming to Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market

T-R file photos — Customers peruse products at the Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market in 2019.

It truly is spring when the Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market finally opens up.

Market Manager Trisha Wilder expects this season to be one of growth, starting with the farmers market season kicking off at 4 p.m., on Wednesday. Thirty-four vendors have already reserved space for the season and more are likely to come.

The number of vendors is in line with what Wilder had on deck last year before the season started. It was slow going as some vendors had hesitation about COVID-19. By June, the vendor numbers picked up. Then the derecho knocked them back down.

The overall turnout last year — even with the unexpected challenges — gives Wilder encouragement the market will only continue to grow. She is prepared to see this season be even better.

“I think it’s going to be really good. I was surprised last year,” she said. “At first people were a little scared to come out to the market. That only lasted the first few weeks. People were being respectful of the space and made it to where we could still function as a market. I’m happy to see people aren’t afraid to come join the market.”

Gail Thomas, owner of The Bunny Farm in Marshalltown, is pictured selling her locally grown products.

Like last year, vendors and shoppers are asked to wear masks. Hand sanitizer will be provided at the vendors and the information booth.

Many of last year’s vendors are returning this year along with a batch of new vendors. For some, it is their first time as a vendor at any farmers’ market. Some of the new vendors include Cogunn’s Country Goods, Minerva’s Meadow, Amelia Ward Creations, The Potting Shed, Sas & Co. and Windy Hill Homestead.

Returning vendors include LimeStone Station, Wilder Bakery, Appleberry Farm, Lim’s Cookies, Rose’s Art Stand, Vining Urban Farm, Higgin’s Honey and Dusty Hill Farm.

It’s early in the season for produce but Wilder said more than a dozen early-season vegetables will be available.

Food items aren’t all the market has to offer though. There are several new art booths which include jewelry makers, Mandala artists and crafters.

The first market of the year always comes with some level of excitement. Often people will begin to gather at the market at 108 N. Second Avenue before it even opens just to get the first look at what is available.

“Everybody is kind of a little rusty getting back into the groove. Some vendors might have to get out there early just because they don’t quite remember how they set things up last year,” Wilder said.

The COVID-19 pandemic could have another interesting effect on farmer’s markets. Many people were turned onto gardening or even creating pocket gardens as a way to limit their trips to the grocery store. Wilder said this won’t hurt farmer’s markets though. Actually, it could help.

“We didn’t see a lot of difference in what people were purchasing,” she said. “In fact, a lot of people were coming up to vendors and asking for gardening tips, which vendors were happy to do.”

Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market is not just a good place to find nutrient-rich food. It’s also a place where people can find value while shopping for healthy choices. For three years the market has run a double-up bucks program which allows customers with SNAP benefits to purchase $10 in market tokens and the market matches up to $10 in food bucks coupons. Those coupons can be used on fresh produce and fruit.

Wilder said the program is a great way to limit the economic barriers to healthy eating.

“It was picking up a lot of momentum last year,” she said. “It’s another way to push healthy eating and to give low-income people a way to purchase fresh produce. It also helps the local economy because that money goes right back to local vendors.”

The program is part of Iowa’s Healthiest State Initiative and is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Wilder has had inquiries from local organizations about providing services such as Medicare sign-up assistance and a COVID-19 vaccination clinic. She said the market is open to hosting community organizations, nonprofits and charities free of charge if they are for the betterment of the community.

“I’m personally excited just to be out and socialize,” Wilder said of the new market season. “There’s a lot of people, vendors I’ve made friends with — it’s kind of like seeing an old friend.”

CARTWRIGHT DOWNTOWN FARMER’S MARKET

When: 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays; 9 a.m.-noon Saturdays

Where: 108 N. Second Ave.

Online: Facebook @CartwrightMarket

Contact: Email cartwright.market@gmail.com or call Trisha Wilder at 641-351-9181

MARSHALLTOWN STRONG DAYS

Cartwright Downtown Farmers Market is seeking dedicated volunteers to help during Marshalltown Strong Days May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, Sept 15 and Oct. 20.

“These are markets where we allow any locally owned business to come and advertise their business during the market,” Wilder said. “They can bring a table, hand out cards or samples. It can be any kind of business, it just has to be owned and operated in Marshalltown.”

Call 641-351-9181 or email cartwright.market@gmail.com

CRAFT FAIR DATES

• May 29

• June 26

• July 31

• Aug. 28

• Sept. 25

Contact Joe Fisher at jfisher@timesrepublican.com.

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