In an historic Cedar Rapids, Iowa, neighborhood devastated by floods in 2008, Secretary Tom Vilsack joined local leaders Saturday, October 27 for the dedication of a year-round local foods market. He called it a testament to neighbors and visionary leaders who saw a need for locally-produced foods, opportunities for entrepreneurs and a chance to rebuild local pride after the floods.
The NewBo City Market is located in Cedar Rapids’ New Bohemia district, home to generations of Czech and Slovak immigrants. Not far away is the Czech Village and the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library.
Up and down the Cedar Rapids neighborhood brick buildings from the late 19th century are being restored. A new coffee shop and bookstore are housed across from the market in the national register-listed Czech-Slovak Protective Society (CSPS) building. A mile to the north, a new library and a convention center complex will open next year. Four years removed from the floods, there is no doubt about it, Cedar Rapids is back.
NewBo City Market is an important piece of the puzzle. It includes the 18,000 square foot market space, a working kitchen used by the local community college’s culinary arts program, a local foods warehousing and distribution center, and an outdoor gathering and performance space. Next year, a children’s activity center and a learning garden will be unveiled.
“Local foods have the ability to transform economies,” Secretary Vilsack told the hundreds gathered for the dedication. “And they can show young people, even in urban areas, the potential that comes from being a farmer.” The Secretary pointed to the Farm Service Agency’s beginning farmer loan program as a vehicle for young people looking at agriculture. And he said they don’t need a thousand acres and giant pieces of equipment to grow fruits and vegetables and sell them at NewBo City Market.
Secretary Vilsack, with a NewBo tote bag in hand, did some shopping after the dedication. He visited a produce stand, tried some locally-produced barbeque sauce, bought some bakery items fresh out of the oven, and had a glass of Caribbean lemonade. A local cattleman had grass-fed beef, a near-by creamery boasted “fresh cheese curds.”
An estimated 2,000 people visited the market during its first few hours of operation.
NewBo also fills an important niche in this area. The nearest grocery store is several miles away. Area residents have had few options in the neighborhood for healthy, fresh foods… Until now.
For Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grants in your area, check out the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass map and search for BFRDP under “Projects by USDA Program.”