Interview with Becky Barnes
Sioux City Farmers Market Manager
The 2021 season of the Sioux City Farmers’ Market promises to safely bring together locals from all walks of life to enjoy the bounty of locally grown produce, artisanal baked goods, and hand-crafted items. Each item featured at the market is grown locally or handmade by the seller. With nearly 20 area farmers selling fresh produce and others offering a wide array of locally roasted coffee, savory snacks, sweet treats, and even live local music, you’re bound to find something to enjoy at this year’s market. It is located just west of the Tyson Events Center in downtown Sioux City at the corner of TriView Avenue and Pearl Street.
Market Season: Wednesday, May 5, 2021 – Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021
Market Hours: Wednesdays & Saturdays, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Becky Barnes has been with the Siouxland Farmers Market for five years. She has played an integral part in managing operations and the market’s steady growth in popularity year over year. The 2020 season brought about some significant challenges for local farmers’ markets throughout the country. I enjoyed sitting down with Becky to discuss this year’s market season and what to expect from this beloved Sioux City staple.
You are five years into your role as Market Manager; how do you feel things went for the 2020 season, and is there anything new we can expect for 2021?
Going back to last year, the 2020 season, we weren’t sure if we would be able to open for the year. Everything was shutting down, and then the state came out with protocols we had to follow to open. We ended up opening the market on May 5, as originally planned, but we were only allowed to have produce and food vendors. Vendors were spaced apart, and items were roped off like a “point and pick” shop where vendors would then bag items for patrons after they made their selection. We also received a grant from the Iowa Delta Dental Association that allowed us to build hand sanitizer stations; we increased our handwashing stations, with six of them located throughout the market. We purchased sanitizer from a local distillery, Century Farms, and used that throughout the market. All vendors wore masks and gloves, and we asked the community to help us out by wearing masks and socially distancing.
This year for the 2021 market, we will provide handwashing stations and sanitizing stations, and we will ask patrons to socially distance and wear masks. When you come down this year vs. last, it will look a little different as we will place all of the vendors back together and implement that patrons use social distancing as we move through the season.
Interesting, so expect masks and social distancing this year, but otherwise, the market is fully open to all vendors and patrons?
That is correct.
In welcoming back vendors this year to the market, have you seen an increase in interest from new growers, vendors, and artisans, or has it been reasonably consistent?
In 2020, we kept that option up to the vendor and their business. If they wanted to vend, they certainly could, and we are thankful for those who came back. We also had some businesses that sat out just because of the whole situation that was going on. Last year, our vendor count was down to 33, which is about half of what we usually see each year. Normally we see 56-60 vendors come through. The vendors that were there in 2020 all had reported that their sales had increased significantly, which just goes to show how important and essential a farmers market is to get that fresh produce and other items.
As of right now, the majority of vendors are returning, and I’ve had about 12 new businesses interested in vending, so the market is getting noticed, and it is healthy and will continue to grow.
With all of the growth, do you find any space constraints there near the Tyson Events Center?
In 2019, there was a waiting list for vendors to get in because, during our peak season of June, July, and August, the whole parking lot is full. I had new businesses waiting to get on the list, so there are sometimes restrictions on space. But as far as the infrastructure goes, we have all of our electricity there, and parking to the south helps out a lot. So, yeah, if I could take the curbs and push them back just a little bit, I certainly would.
Did the building of the new parking garage at Hard Rock cause any challenges for market patrons and vendors, or have there only been positives from that new construction?
Not at all. We welcome any amount of parking that we can get down there. In previous years, we have had the carnival come in and other visitors in the south parking lot that our patrons typically use up space. So we welcomed that parking lot with open arms!
After five years of managing the market, what are a few things you’re always excited about each year as the farmers market is starting up again?
My number one thing is getting to see everybody because you are with them for six months and then you don’t see them for six months. It’s like, “I miss you guys!” We’re all just like a big family down there. Not just the vendors but the patrons, the kids that come down as well – and the puppy dogs, they are always my favorite too. So just that atmosphere of community and bringing people together, that’s what I look forward to each year.
Puppy dogs do make everything better. How about live music and special entertainment for patrons?
Yep! We are excited to have live music back this year and secured a sponsor for our music tent for this year and next. So the live music will go on.
Where can people go to stay “in the know” with all of the happenings each week at the market?
Our website is a great resource where you will find information on our vendors, our board members, and contact info for any interested vendors. Go to www.farmersmarketsiouxcity.com, and you can also follow us on Facebook.