On October 27th the NewBo City Market in Cedar Rapids, Iowa will open to the public. I have watched the construction of the market with a lot of anticipation because I think it represents a golden opportunity to develop local food options.
Public markets have a long history in much of Europe—spend a morning wandering the Boqueria in Barcelona and you will understand the appeal—but the history in the United States is somewhat more checkered. Our food culture is centered around the grocery store for better and for worse. However, the growth of interest in food has pushed public markets to the forefront as a venue for local merchants and producers to have an outlet for sale to the general public without the overhead of a single owner occupied storefront.
Local food’s primary challenge is access to customers. Large grocery store chains have standardized supply chains that require large volumes of products on very consistent schedules. A local producer cannot meet the volume requirements or, depending upon the climate, the consistency requirements. One solution is to form a co-op that aggregates producers’ products. Five Acre Farm in New York is doing just that with a whole host of farm fresh goods.
The other solution is to have stalls and storefronts that can sell direct to the consumer. In the summer, in Iowa at any rate, the solution is the farmers market. Any day of the week in my part of this great state I can go to a farmers market and have access to the most delectable of seasonal delights. After Labor Day, however, the choices of markets begin to dwindle. This is not a major concern for the purveyors of fruits and vegetables, but what about the suppliers of products like meat or baked goods that do not have the seasonal constraints?
This is where the NewBo City Market will come in. Local vendors—including florists, meat sellers, bakers, wine merchants, etc.—will have permanent stalls inside the renovated warehouse, which is quite a stunning transformation to witness if you take the time to look at the pictures on the Facebook page. There will also be temporary stalls in the warmer months for markets and events. It is going to be great.
Unfortunately, I am going to miss the opening of the NewBo City Market because I will be out of town on travel. Walt Disney World calls…
What gets me the most excited is a chance to buy pork from Rustik Rooster Farms. Carl Blake at Rustik Rooster is breeding a new pig based on the prized Swabian Hall. A cross between a wild boar from an island off the coast of Georgia and the Chinese Meishan these pigs look nothing like the ones you think roam Old Macdonald’s farm. Dare I say that they are cute?
Sure, it looks like someone grafted the face of a shar pei onto a black pig, but I digress. Apparently the quality of the meat is second to none—even beating out the foodie favorite Mangalista breed in a competition in San Francsico. The Des Moines Register did a nice write up of what is going on down at the farm.
Big Boy Meats will be one of the vendors in the market and they will be carrying pork from Rustik Rooster. Check out their Facebook page for some photos of a visit to the Rustik Rooster farm.