Rexburg Farmers Market having best year since it started

Blake Johnson takes a bit out of the Crazy Corn that his brother Bryce and sister-in-law Kourtney Johnson sell at the Friday Farmers Market at the Madison Fairgrounds.

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Despite COVID-19, the 2020 Rexburg Farmers Market is having a banner year.

“Oh my goodness, the community has completely showed up to support us. We’re over the moon. They’re coming out in droves,” says manager Abegeal Brown. “Families have been cramped up inside and are looking for an opportunity (to get out). It’s been going really well.”

The event is held from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., every Friday at the Madison County Fairgrounds from now through the middle of October.

“We extended our season to help out because we had to start so much later than originally anticipated,” she said.

Opening day turned out to be a pleasant surprise, Brown said.

“I would say it was probably the best opening day that the farmers market has had in the last eight or nine years. It was a financially successful market-opening day. Our numbers have consistently increased,” she said.

Forty-seven vendors signed up for the 2020 market compared to 36 in 2019, Brown said.

“It’s at an all-time high which has been just amazing,” she said.

Brown believes a lot of that has to do with residents learning new skills while being quarantined. They later transferred those skills into profitable businesses via the weekly farmers market.

“Obviously COVID-19 hit the economy hard. People were learning to make stuff. A friend suddenly took up sewing. She thought ‘Hey, this is pretty good. Maybe I can turn around and sell at the farmers market,’” Brown said. “People are looking for a side hustle. We’ve had five to 10 vendor applications since the market has been open. People are seeing it’s a good opportunity and want to be involved.”

It costs $75 to set up at the market for the season, but for those vendors only interested in renting a spot once or twice, the cost is $25.

Everything from crafts to food is sold at the weekly market, she said. Brown noted that some of the vendors accept Electronic Benefits Transfer payments. EBT is part of the Supplemental Nutrition Program once known as food stamps, and some of the items at the farmers market fall within the guidelines of the program. Tokens are used in place of EBT cards.

“The state has us track EBT tokens at the end of each market. Those vendors that accept them bring them back to us. The farmers market gets money from the State of Idaho, and we reimburse vendors,” Brown said.

Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill said he enjoys visiting the farmers market to see what residents have to offer. The Fairgrounds is the perfect place to have the market, he said.

“It’s set up well with shade trees and grass. I hope people will go see what’s there and support it,” he said.

In previous years, the market was held at a park near College Avenue. With Brigham Young University-Idaho being closed, farmers market officials looked elsewhere and eventually opted to set up shop at the Madison County Fairgrounds. Such provides for the six-foot social distancing required, Brown said.

Holding the annual farmers market showcases local business owners’ talents and what they have to offer, she said.

“Something else we have learned time and time again — especially with COVID – is to support local businesses and families and to help keep our money local,” she said. “We want to keep as much money in the area as possible. It helps families who have lived here a million years, and young people just moving here and starting off.”

The market offers things that wouldn’t be found elsewhere, Brown said.

“We have the best shaved ice you will ever have in your life. We have foot-long corn dogs on a chopstick,” she said.

Brown also noted the Mexican Crazy Corn sold by Bryce and Kourtney Johnson. The couple has done so since the market started 12 years ago.

The crazy corn gets its name from all the sauce, cheese and Chili Lime Powder and Seasoning sprinkled on top of it. It’s the seasoning that gives the crazy corn its unique taste, Bryce said.

“I recommend dusting a little chili powder on it to get a little flavor,” he said.

Attending the weekly farmers market has been worth their time, he said.

“Even if it wasn’t so much, it’s become a fun community that we’ve become a part of. We enjoy the friends and customers that we have,” he said. “The friendships you make are lasting. We can bring people together and enjoy a nice evening outside.”

Brown encouraged residents to attend the weekly event.

“The farmers market is a wonderful way to get out and get some sun, and to spend some time with your family. It’s a great way to support all those local people. It’s important to let Rexburg know we can uplift and support each other.”

For more information on the farmers market visit https://www.facebook.com/rexburgfarmersmarket.