by Erik Sessions, Farmers Market Vendor
Last year was a year of mixed blessing for the Winneshiek Farmers Market Association. The June rains brought abundant summer and fall produce on many farms, and customers and vendors alike enjoyed a long and glorious fall. We mourned two losses this winter: our longtime market manager, Cindy Ballard, and veteran fruit and vegetable vendor, Don Praska passed away. Both will be sorely missed as we look ahead to the 2009 season.
Several new vendors joined our ranks at the market, and sales of fresh, locally-produced food continues to blossom. However, weather, customer safety and space restrictions continue to be issues for our growing market. This winter, a group of vendors is continuing to research the perfect permanent structure to house the market. We have met with wonderful support from other markets, customers, city officials and downtown businesses, and are currently reviewing architectural designs from markets around the region as well as sketches specific to our location.
Discussions are ongoing with a regional architectural firm and members of the Decorah City Council regarding siting of a structure, design considerations and parking and traffic flow issues. Once a site has been determined, architects will be able to work with city planners and vendors to design the structure(s) and determine estimated costs. Bids will be let and a capital campaign will start this spring.
Our current design includes stalls for 30 vendors, housed in two open-air structures. Additional structures could be added in the future as demand and finances allow. We also would like to create one or more structures that would incorporate public restrooms, a performance space and an enclosed office. We envision extensive landscaping and tree-planting, which will create a park-like setting that is welcoming to all. One of the Association’s top concerns is that the permanent structure can perform many functions. The Association envisions that the space will be an open, sheltered public space available to individuals and organizations to use during non-market hours. Many towns around the country have seen wonderful community benefits from creating similar markets in their downtown areas, and we feel that there are unlimited possibilities for a well-designed permanent Farmers Market structure in Decorah.
Like our partners at the Oneota Food Coop, the Winneshiek Farmers’ Market Association strives to promote diversity and economic security of our agricultural community and to make healthy food available to as many folks as possible. We appreciate your ideas and support in furthering these goals as we work toward creation of functional, beautiful market structures.
Please call Erik Sessions (387-0837) or Becky Steines (382-4642) with any questions or suggestions.