During opening day of the Freight House Farmers Market’s outdoor season on Saturday, there were plenty of new foods to sample and old favorites to revisit.
One thing's for sure: There’s a story behind every vendor. Read on for a look inside the market’s opening day.
After a long winter of “experimenting,” Brad and Ann Moore were eager for opening day of the Freight House Farmers Market.
On Saturday, the couple, both 68, fielded a steady line of people checking out their new business, Cottage Bagels.
“We’re so ready to share it with everyone,” Brad Moore said. “It’s exciting to get it going.”
The Moores, who moved to the Quad-Cities from San Diego three years ago, aren’t new to the market scene. Last year, they sold crafts, including bird houses and quilt racks, as The Cottage Collection. But they decided to change it up this season.
“We noticed everyone was carrying food around, not crafts,” he said. “We figured that would be the way to go.”
The retired duo saw a need for homemade bagels and bagel sandwiches in the Quad-Cities, so they spent the winter trying out different recipes and perfecting the process.
The Moores prepare bagels -- including plain, everything, blueberry, cherry almond and asiago cheese varieties -- at home and at the Quad-Cities Food Hub commercial kitchen. They plan to offer different sandwiches, from turkey to roast beef to chicken salad, each Saturday along with a side of bagel chips and strawberry lemonade.
“We really love it at the market,” Ann Moore said. “We love the people. Everyone’s happy to be there.”
Along with Cottage Bagels, about 10-15 vendors are new this year, according to Kyle Carter, executive director of the Downtown Davenport Partnership who sits on the market’s board of directors.
Also new this year, the market will be open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“We’ve grown a lot. We’ve worked hard to improve our application process, so that new vendors understand the process of how to get in,” Carter said. “We’ve gone to great lengths to make it more open. We hope to do an even better job next year.”
‘Good to be back’
For returning vendors, such as Great River Maple, opening day is kind of like a family reunion.
“It’s an exciting day where you see people you haven’t seen in awhile and you meet new people, too,” said Alicia Potter, who acts as a “roving salesman” for her family’s maple syrup business, which is based in Garnavillo, Iowa. Great River Maple, which started in 2008, has a presence at farmers markets in Dubuque, Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
“It’s easy to sell it in bulk, but you don’t get that one-on-one interaction,” Potter said. “You get to see the response from different people and how their eyes light up. It keeps you wanting to make the best product for them.”
The same goes for Mr. and Mrs. Tea, the moniker for Tim and Leah Foss, who sell 15 types of loose-leaf tea at the farmers market.
“It’s good to be back,” Leah Foss said. “We try to create an experience for people each time.”
The 20-something couple, who plan to set up at the market on Saturday and Sunday, offer samples to as many passersby as possible.
“We’re giving people samples they can see and smell,” she said. “If they’re not really tea people, we want to find something they like.”
Back for her third year at the market, Abby Rodriguez, who owns River Prairie Wildflowers, offered strawberry rhubarb hand pies and tarts on Saturday.
“It’s exciting to see community-supported agriculture,” she said. “There are people committed to supporting small farmers.”
Rodriguez said market days makes the weeks of hard work worth it.
“As a farmer, you’re always doing different things to get the word out,” she said. “This is a nice way to be face-to-face with customers and make those connections.”
‘100 percent rely on this’
For Lisa Schafman, who owns Meatheads Meat Market with her husband Bruce, joining the farmers market has “completely changed” her business for the better, she said.
“I remember talking to my husband and saying, ‘You know what’s wrong? We’re here, but nobody knows we’re here,’” Schafman said on Saturday, outside of their “meat wagon.” “Now people know we’re here.”
Last month, Meatheads Meat Market opened its second location at 2503 53rd Ave., Bettendorf, and unveiled a food truck, which also was at the market over the weekend.
“A big part of being able to grow has been because of the farmers market,” Schafman said. “There’s a sense of camaraderie. You build relationships with different people.”
For Jessica Goodale, who owns Barnyard Produce, a farm based in Tipton, Iowa, there's no way around it: "I 100 percent rely on the farmers market," she said.
Saturday marked the beginning of Goodale’s sixth year at the Freight House.
“You wait all winter and then it’s time,” she said. “When you get back out here, everyone is in a good mood and happy it’s nice outside.”
Even though Goodale, 28, woke up at 3:30 a.m. to arrive at the market, she and her father, John Crowley, were excited to show off their produce.
“We grow everything ourselves,” she said. “It’s really rewarding when you come to the market and see customers who know you by name. Even when it’s pouring down rain, people zip to the tents they know and run back to their car. It's a real community."