Depot farmer’s market closes, provides new opportunities for young vendors


Photo: Andrew Clawson/Iowa State Daily

The Main Street Ames Farmers Market is moving from its location at the former Ames Railroad Depot in downtown Ames.

Alexander Furman

The downtown Ames Farmer’s Market has closed at the Ames train depot and is now resettling at Black’s Heritage Farm.

After the combination of rent increase and close competition, losses became too much for the market.

“We just really couldn’t afford the rent; [it] was outrageous. Once they started the other [farmer’s market], that sunk us because half our vendors went with them even though we were year round. That basically caused our downfall,” said Noreen Black, who led the downtown farmer’s market with her husband, Duane.

Another major problem was that the Main Street farmer’s market was newer and had a larger budget for advertising and publicity, while the depot did not.

With that, Black’s vendors felt by leaving they could maximize their profits by moving to the new Main Street Farmer’s Market. Since the Main Street market is only seasonal, there’s a large influx of customers for a short amount of time, opposed to the market at the depot, which is year round. The problem with the year round market is that it brings in smaller numbers of customers, throughout the year. 

“They left because they thought they could make a lot of money in a short amount of time,” Black said.

“The big thing was they had a large advertising budget, and we didn’t. We did get free publicity, but there was a lot more than that; we’ve been here for five generations, but it was about a $40,000 loss.”

It was apparent to entrepreneurs around the area what was happening as well.

“When she was in there, she had people that were vendors, and when the Main Street market opened, I think they saw a bigger and better opportunity over there,” said Denny Thiel, owner of Thiel’s Bicycles.

He started his small bicycle shop in the depot shortly before the downtown farmer’s market closed shop.

The couple has now prepared to set up a new venue, which will be hosted at their farm located at 26156 530th Ave. in Ames. It is similar to a normal farmer’s market, and will be called a farm market.

Because of their age, they want to give other younger, more eager groups a chance to get their foot in the door with agriculture.

“We sold our acreage to a very young couple, and I think they’ll do very well. They’re very stable with the fact that they know they have to do the work and that they’re not going to be millionaires,” Black said.

The younger the better is the name of the game in farming and the markets; Black said they even have a 9-year-old vendor this year.

Although the decision to close at the depot was a hard one, more opportunities lay ready in the future.

There are plans to open this farm market on April 27, and the plan to host a cafe-style area for people to try foods before they take it home and try to cook it themselves. This is a big challenge for many people who are interested in buying from farmer’s markets.

The Black family hasn’t stated the operating times of their new venture, but have said that it will most likely be weekends for now.