Elkader’s Farmers’ Market Two locations grow from disagreement

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Dawn Amundson has decided to stay with the city-supported Farmers’ Market that moved this spring to Founders Park, Elkader.
Angela Keppler moved from downtown to a spot on Highway 13 at the Fast Tak gas station and convenience store.
Angela Keppler moved from downtown to a spot on Highway 13 at the Fast Tak gas station and convenience store.

By Pam Reinig
Register Editor

Growing concern over changes to the Elkader Farmers’ Market has resulted in a second location for purchasing produce, baked goods and other items. And while it may not be ideal, vendors and customers alike say they are making the best of the situation.
“I miss being on the corner and all of the activity we had there,” said Dawn Amundson, who is selling farm fresh eggs and crafts from the new city-supported location in Founders Park. “I think people, especially visitors to town, saw us on their way to the bakery and stopped for that reason.”

Amanda Keppler, a long-time Farmers’ Market vendor, also had concerns about the new location. She decided to start a second market located north of Elkader on Highway 13 in a wide grassy patch off the Fast Trak parking lot.

 “People are still learning that I’m here but business has been good,” Keppler said “Over Memorial Day weekend, I did three times the sales I would do downtown.” She adds that sharing space with Pauly’s Red Greenhouse, which is in St. Olaf, has brought in customers, as well.

Nobody can recall when Elkader’s Farmers’ Market started but according to City Administrator Jennifer Cowsert, a change of venue and a more structured approach have been in the planning stages for several years.

 “When the master plan for Founders’ Park was developed, it included the Farmer’s Market in the gravel parking lots next to FreedomBank,” Cowsert said. “We even planned to have a pavilion over the area but ran out of money. That probably goes back to 2010 or 2011. Around the same time, there was a regional effort to market the Farmers’ Markets. Darla Kelchen with the Clayton County Development Group had meetings with us and encouraged us to make our Farmer’s Market more formal—for example, have vendors register, and establish a fee and some general guidelines.”

Recently, the Main Street Promotions Committee has assumed responsibility of the market. With unanimous support from City Council, they changed the venue from Keystone Park to Founders’ Park. “I think this is one of the most positive changes we’ve made in a long time,” said Mayor Josh Pope, following the Council’s vote last month. “The space we’ve been using is small with little room for expansion and, well, that’s a very busy intersection and I’ve always been concerned about accidents happening there.”

Other changes to the downtown market include the implementation of a fee. Vendors are asked to pay either a $5 daily fee or $25 for the entire season.

 “We are also accepting (single payments) of $5 at a time until the $25 is reached, if they don’t want to pay all at once,” said Main Street Director Kate Lower. Fees are being used to offset promotion costs, she added.

The downtown market also requires vendors to review and sign a Code of Conduct.

 “This is not uncommon in market vendor agreements,” Lower said, adding that complaints against vendors have been received in the past. “We are striving to create a positive market environment,” she said.

Keppler’s vendor-supported market does not assess a fee and doesn’t have a Code of Conduct. Neither is necessary at the new space she said because vendors aren’t paying to use the space and those who sell there know how to get along.

To increase traffic at the Founders’ Park location, a variety of special activities including live music and yoga have been offered. Lower said they’ve been well received. She’s also handing out surveys to customers to get a feel for how the new location is working for them. Though Keppler said she was told the market would move back to Keystone Park in July if traffic was slow at the new spot, Lower said an evaluation won’t be done until the end of the season.

So far the time being and perhaps even longer, residents and visitors have their choice of two markets. Little produce has been available yet this season but both locations have plenty of other goods to sell until their gardens begin to flourish.

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