Local farmers markets set to begin

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A variety of homegrown and homemade items will be available at weekly farmers markets in Marquette, McGregor and Monona this year. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

With the onset of summer comes the onset of farmers market season. This year, a variety of homegrown and homemade items will be available at weekly markets in Marquette, McGregor and Monona.

Monona’s farmers market kicks off first, on Wednesday, May 25. It will be held at Gateway Park each Wednesday, from 3 to 6 p.m., until Oct. 5.

As of now, three vendors are expected, said organizer Sonya Stagman. Vegetables, homemade jewelry and wood crafts will be among the offerings, she noted.

The Friday Night Live farmers market at the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre in Marquette will begin on Friday, May 27. The farmers market will continue each Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., until Oct. 14.

Wetlands Centre Director Alicia Mullarkey said the market will begin with seven vendors, selling  items like produce, plants, cut flowers, baked goods, jewelry, jams and jellies, syrups and walnuts. Meat can be ordered through Our Farm Meats, of Elkader. 

“They bring quite a lot of variety to the table,” Mullarkey said of the vendors.

She said several hands-on, nature-themed activities and programs will be offered throughout the season, as well.

Mullarkey, who is in her first year with the Wetlands Centre, said it makes a great venue for the farmers market.

“The Wetlands Centre is a great venue because it combines the aspect of nature and food,” she said, adding that it shows the importance of and helps people learn more about the role of pollinators, local environments and sustainability.

McGregor’s farmers market will start next week, on Saturday, June 4, and continue each Saturday, from 9 a.m. to noon, in Triangle Park.

The farmers market moved to Saturday mornings late last season, after being held Friday evenings.

“I think everybody is pleased it’s back on Saturday mornings,” said McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Carolyn Gallagher. “We have space available, and we’d love to have more people. We have a beautiful place for it that’s nice and shady.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there are over 8,000 farmers markets nationwide, double the number in existence 10 years ago. The surge in popularity is attributable to consumer demands for access to fresh produce. Consumers also want to know how it was grown and by whom.

“Eating healthy is a big initiative,” Mullarkey said. “[Farmers markets] are a great opportunity to get food locally, from the producers who are growing it.”

“It’s an asset if people can’t grow vegetables themselves, if they live in an apartment or are elderly,” Stagman said.

Stagman said consumers can also be reassured chemicals are not used on the produce grown in her garden. She added that, through the farmers market, she and other vendors get to know the community and are able to customize the experience for their customers.

“It helps us know what their tastes are, like if they like or dislike kale,” she said. “We can grow more of what they like.”

Stagman recalled a customer last year who was on the hunt for a specific item—wax beans.

“But none of the vendors had them,” she said. “So, when I started ordering seeds [this year], I kept that in the back of my mind.”

She hopes he returns this year.

Each farmers market readily welcomes new vendors:

  • To join the Monona farmers market, contact Stagman at (563) 536-2371. 
  • To be part of the Friday Night Live farmers market at the Wetlands Centre, call (563) 873-3537, email drifttlessareawetlandcentreia@gmail.com or contact the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre on Facebook. 
  • To be a vendor at the farmers market in McGregor, contact the McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce at (563) 873-2186 or mcgregormarquettechamber@gmail.com, or stop by the Chamber office at 146 Main St., in McGregor. Applications, along with rules and regulations, can also be accessed at www.mcgreg-marq.org/area-events/farmers-market.
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