Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interview with Preston Moore of NewBo City Market, pt. 1

The NewBo City Market is a year-round indoor and outdoor market located in the New Bohemia District in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Since its opening in 2012, the market has been selling local and homegrown foods, arts, and crafts, as well as putting on events for the community. Due to new interest in organic food and local businesses, the NewBo City Market has been bustling each day since its opening. We talked to Preston Moore, Director of Marketing & Special Events at NewBo, about the market, local food, and the future of city markets.

Despite being located in downtown Cedar Rapids, which is still recovering from the 2008 floods, the NewBo City Market has thrived. What do you think are the biggest factors contributing to NewBo's success?

Cedar Rapids as a whole has come a long way since the floods of 2008. Parts of town have recovered much more quickly than others, and NewBo City Market is very fortunate to be in a neighborhood that has rebounded with what I would consider to be considerable speed. The biggest single factor that has contributed to the success of the market has honestly been its people. From its very inception, NewBo City Market has had the support of some very passionate people--and as with most successful projects, our passionate people were loud and ardent advocates for our existence. We simply wouldn't be here (even in the form of an idea) without the support of those that truly wanted the market to be here.

Local markets and food have been rapidly growing in popularity. How do they benefit communities? How does NewBo benefit Cedar Rapids?

Public markets have always served a wide variety of purposes in their communities. A trend that has popped up in recent years is the development of public markets in towns/areas that have, for whatever reason, faced a decline. Our neighborhood's decline was a literal one due to the 2008 flood, but other communities' issues aren't always as transparent. In the case of Cedar Rapids, and more specifically our neighborhood, I think the main benefit of NewBo City Market is that we have encouraged economic and community growth. It's hard to ignore a bright red 20,000-square-foot building that takes up an entire square block. People who had been eyeing this neighborhood as a potential launching point for their businesses took note of the success our market was experiencing and said to themselves, "This neighborhood will work." There is a sense of stability here that we aren't entirely responsible for, but I certainly believe we contributed to.

NewBo is more than just a city market; it's part of the New Bohemia neighborhood. What is the atmosphere New Bohemia tries to create? How does the market play a role in that?

The general atmosphere of any Bohemian neighborhood is driven by artists and creators. Our neighborhood is home to galleries that house some of the greatest artists in the Midwest. We also have what are arguably the most visited restaurants, bars, and shops in the downtown area. I think NewBo City Market plays a role in that by giving our merchants and vendors a space to "test the waters," so to speak. Our vendors and merchants are the smallest of small businesses, and without a space like the market, some of them would have never have gotten off the ground. We're very fortunate to have a the space we do in that sense.

We also work hard to partner with other organizations in the community, as well as artists and musicians, to make sure everyone who wants visibility is able to get it. We see jugglers, balloon artists, dancers, gymnasts, and a wide array of street artists visit the market every single week. We love being the sort of "town square" that those people need in order to gain exposure.

Check back next week for the second part of this interview!

Monday, February 3, 2014

International Year of Family Farming

The Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming with the aim of highlighting the important role family and small farms play in feeding the world. To do our part, throughout 2014 we are featuring some of our favorite images and words from Iowa books on family farms. Here’s the latest!

“[My grandfather was] born in Mecklenburg, Germany, immigrated at age three with his parents to New Orleans, St. Louis, then Iowa…. Paying eight dollars an acre in gold, [Grandfather] claimed one hundred and sixty acres and immediately began erecting barns—the house could come later….

“From 1895 to 1925, those leaping years for American agriculture, his land value increased to six hundred dollars an acre and he made money on crops and herds. Only once, in the Depression of 1907, were times so tough that the family ate hand-ground cornmeal mush laced with fresh milk…. In the midst of the 1930s Depression, there was nothing for us to fear, not even fear itself; we could eat off the land….”

excerpt from We Have All Gone Away, by Curtis Harnack