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Grinnell farmers market ready for summer season

This weekend will mark the start of the second farmers market held during the pandemic. Contributed photo from 2017.

Grinnell’s summer-long farmers market will be opening on May 13 with many of the same COVID-19 precautions as last year. Grinnell residents will be able to purchase everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to kettle corn twice a week in Central Park.  

“The excitement for market seems to be the same every year for me: it’s just seeing all of our vendors again,” said Kendra Vincent, who organizes the market for the Grinnell Chamber of Commerce. “You really get to form a bond with all of our vendors, and we don’t really see them in the off season, … so we’re really excited to see them and have access to the products they sell.”  

There are 25 individual vendors currently signed up for slots at the market, including 11 full time vendors for Saturdays, 17 for Thursdays and four part-time vendors who won’t be participating for the entire summer. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of vendors has held steady from pre-pandemic years, said Vincent, even increasing a bit on Saturdays. 

Participants have to pay the Chamber a fee of $115 for a yearly Thursday slot, and $105 for a Saturday slot.  

One of those vendors is Esther Huedepohl, 82, who sells pies, sweet breads and other baked goods. Huedepohl has been a fixture at Grinnell’s farmers market for 10 years, and before that attended the Cedar Rapids farmers market for 30 years.    

“It’s just nice to have something, after all this horrendous COVID and everything,” she said. “[I’m most looking forward to seeing] my old customers, because I do keep in touch with some of the customers. It’s different than being in a large town because there’s more of a personable relationship between, you know, the customer, and when they come, it’s interesting because … when you see them walk up you know what they’re looking for. It’s fun.”  

Last summer, the market went ahead despite public health headwinds, but introduced some virus safety measures. Vendors were required to wear masks or face shields – that’s a policy that will continue this year. Stalls were also widened from the previous 10 feet to 20 feet to keep sellers and customers further apart. This year, the size of stalls has been reduced to 15 feet, leaving 5 feet separation between each table, according to Vincent. There will also no longer be physical barriers between stalls.  

Unlike vendors, though, customers were not and will not be required to wear face coverings. While the Chamber heavily encourages customers to wear masks, Vincent said it cannot require it because the market is held on public land in Central Park. Masks haven’t been required in public in Iowa since Governor Kim Reynolds’ proclamation of February 6.  

Huedepohl said she wasn’t worried about her own health while selling last year, and she is now vaccinated in time for this summer.  

Beckey Anderson is another returning vendor from last year.  

“The social distancing was great, people were really mindful of that. … We were actually kind of isolated by ourselves, and then just came forward when somebody came up,” she said. “I’m not quite as worried about it this year because we’ve [my husband and I] both been vaccinated.”  

Anderson, who is 64, has been a regular vendor at the farmers market since 2009; this year, she is selling kettle corn, microgreens, and cut flowers. The flowers won’t be ready until next month, though, because of unusually cold and dry weather, she said.  

With many Iowa residents like Anderson vaccinated, Vincent said she hopes that some of the activities that were cancelled last year, like a partnership with Drake Community Library to provide books to children and live musical performances, will also be able to return by mid-summer. The market will be in operation each Thursday and Saturday until October 23.

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