Maloney looks to find market a home

Published 3:32 pm Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jody Maloney, president for the Austin Area Farmer’s Market, stands in the parking lot of the municipal swimming pool where the market soon will be relocated to. - Eric Johnson/

Growing up, she learned tricks of the trade from her grandparents. Today, she and her significant other continue to grow a few crops at their rural Lyle residence, as well as raise chicken and cattle.
That passion for wholesome, natural produce has led Maloney to get heavily involved with the Austin Area Farmers Market, including taking over as the group’s president this year.
As president, Maloney’s biggest task at the moment is to find a viable and consistent home for the market long-term.
Currently, the market is held on Thursday afternoons on First Avenue Northwest downtown, and on Mondays and Saturdays at the Oak Park Mall parking lot.
Maloney said having two locations can be confusing to customers, who may forget where the market is located on a given day.
“A lot of us would like just one location,” she said.
And while the downtown location may be more visible — a big plus, Maloney said — space has been an issue.
“We’re limited,” she said of herself and vendors. “We’re packed right now.”
In a few weeks, Maloney and crew will get to spread their legs a little more, as they’ll be occupying the municipal pool parking lot after swimming season is over.
However, that’s not a long-term solution, as the market would not be able to operate in the lot during the summer swimming season for safety and crowding reasons.
That means Maloney is still searching for a perfect spot. She said an ideal location is one with a little room for vendors to spread out, but also one that’s not off the beaten path.
Such a location could be developing right before Maloney’s eyes. She said she’s spoken to the city about possibly setting the market up near the new jail and justice center parking lot — what was the Robbins block — once work is complete there.
Such an arrangement would have the market on the street but also possibly using a portion of the lot. Maloney said with a little more room — and with a consistent presence downtown — she’d like to see the market continue to grow.
That would mean expanding on the current roster of around 15 vendors, as well as maybe adding performers to the mix to liven up the atmosphere.
As she works toward this goal, Maloney is also faced with a full-time job at the Austin Medical Center as a lab technician. She said juggling the two commitments can be hard at times.
“I find time, but I get tired,” Maloney said. “I get worn out.”
Still, don’t expect her to quit anytime soon. Maloney said she’s always been a fan of farmers markets, and she sees herself sticking with the one in Austin. In fact, she’s even got involved with a farmers market in Albert Lea.
That market has featured musical performers, as well as various arts and crafts booths, over the years. Maloney said she’d like to model the Austin market after that.
But before that happens, she wants to find the market a permanent home.
“We don’t want to keep moving,” Maloney said.

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