By Scott Smith Kokomo Tribune
---- — The Kokomo Farmer’s Market, which is entering its final month of operation this year, has had an up-and-down time of it since moving to a new location this year.
It was the sixth season for the market, which had grown from around six regular vendors to 18 last year, and the first season next to the Masonic temple at Mulberry and North Washington streets.
“We were a little slow; it wasn’t quite as good as the first part of the year,” Rochester farmer Rob North said of the new location. “But towards the end [of the season] we started to get better, and now we’re having some of our top sales.”
Board members aren’t saying why, but longtime market director Mandy Wright-Jarrett had her contract ended early, and board member Adrienne Akers took over on an interim basis this month.
Wright-Jarrett also wouldn’t discuss what happened, but said there were “growing pains” with the new location.
“We were kind of at a standstill; we didn’t do better, and we didn’t do worse. I think that had a lot to do with the new location.”
City officials had given market officials three choices for a new location, after plans started to move ahead on a new downtown parking garage and YMCA. As it turns out, the market could have possibly stayed put this year, as the parking garage construction has yet to officially begin at the old market location at Sycamore and Union streets.
Sandy Herman, the spokesperson for the market, said the intention right now is to hold the market along Washington Street again next year, and said the board will continue to weigh its options.
Located across Mulberry from Grace United Methodist Church, the new market site offers plenty of parking and space for vendors, as well as Wi-Fi service — a first at the market — and produce grown and sold by the same grower.
Vendors at the Kokomo Market, which opens Saturday and runs from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. every Saturday through October, aren’t allowed to buy food at food auctions and bring the items to market.
Vendors can’t sell things at the Kokomo Market that they didn’t grow or make.
“When you go to buy an apple here, you know the person you bought it from is the one who grew it,” Wright-Jarrett said earlier this year. “They can answer your questions. That’s really our niche.”
Ivy Tech State College, Howard County and St. Joseph Hospital are the key stakeholders for the market, and are all expected to remain on board next year. This past season was the first time Wright-Jarrett had received a salary.“It’s been a wonderful experience, and I have no regrets,” she said. “I encourage all of the patrons to continue to support the farmer’s market. It’s such a vital part of the community.”