Farmers market moves harvest to new location

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DeKALB - Business at the DeKalb farmers market has been off to a slow start this year, and vendors are starting to worry. After 12 years on Palmer Court, the market was relocated this year to Public Lot 3, at the corner of South Fourth and Grove streets, because of downtown construction. The move has left many loyal customers unsure of where the market has gone, and vendors, already dealing with the high price of gas and the time and effort it takes to bring produce to market, are feeling the strain. June 19 was the first sunny day the weekly market had seen since it kicked off on June 5. Many vendors have been disappointed with the first few weeks' customer turnout, they said. "Lots of regular customers just found us this week," Bryan Crump, of Crump Family Gardens in Carlock, said June 19. A week later, Crump was in better spirits. "[Business has] been pretty good," he said Thursday. "A few more customers found us. It just takes a while." Daryl Srail of Windy Acres Farm Produce in Geneva estimated that the market has lost about half its regular customers. "Nobody likes it over here. The charm is gone," she said. "They plant it in the middle of the street with the cars and trains." Some customers, such as Joany Primm of DeKalb agreed. "I like the other [location] better," she said. "It was just cozier on the cobblestone streets." Shavette Felker of DeKalb said she had trouble finding the new location. "I've been asking, 'Where's my farmers market?' " she said. "This [location] is like, 'Where?'" Other customers said they enjoyed the change of pace. "I like this better; there's more room to stroll around and more parking," said Ethel Patkotak-McDermott of DeKalb. Some first-time vendors were also optimistic. "(The market) is a little slower than the other markets we go to, but every week it's picking up a little bit," said Marty Streit of Breadsmith in St. Charles. Crafter Sara Montgomery of DeKalb said she is hoping business will continue to pick up as the summer wears on. The location change isn't permanent, stressed Re:New DeKalb Executive Director Jennifer Groce. "We only relocated the market for one year," she said. "They'll be going right back once construction is through." The construction on Public Lot 4, near the original location, "is the first of two years' worth of major public improvements to our downtown," DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki said. The plan is to make the parking lot more of a public gathering space for the farmers market and small festivals, he said, with additional landscaping, lighting and possibly water features. Srail said she hopes to see business get back to usual when the market returns to Palmer Court next year. "We've spent a lot of time building up this market," she said. "We'd hate to see an end to [it]." Downtown projects Because of planned construction, Re:New DeKalb Farmers Market has been moved to Public Lot 3, at the corner of South Fourth and Grove streets, for the summer. The market operates from noon-6 p.m. Thursdays. Downtown construction on Parking Lot 4, across from the Egyptian Theatre, begins Monday. For updates on downtown construction, visit http://www.renewdekalb.com.