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The Herald – Independent covers the Monona Farmers Market
Story posted in Herald-Independent: Thursday, July 9, 2015 1:15 pm
Iruk Hopes to Help Monona Farmers Market Grow
If you’ve been to the Monona Farmers’ Market this season, you probably haven’t noticed any significant changes from past years. That’s the way Stacy Iruk intended it to be.
Iruk, the new market manager, took over this year from Ross Cohen, who left at the end of the 2014 season, after five years at the helm.
“I knew I was walking into a situation where the customers and vendors were happy,” Iruk said. “I didn’t want to walk in and change that.”
Iruk said the Monona Farmers’ Market is special in several ways, much of which is due to Cohen’s work.
“There is a community feel here that is pretty incredible,” she said. “There’s such a great energy and vibe here. We’re fortunate with the circular layout of the vendors, and the picnic tables are always full of people enjoying themselves and watching the little ones dance to the music. You can just see the joy in their faces.
“Even when it rains, people still come and are smiling.”
On a day with decent weather, it’s not an overstatement to say at least 1,000 come and go during the four hours the market is open.
Iruk has a degree in environmental education from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
“I’ve traveled a lot, starting when I was just 14,” she said. “I studied abroad a few times in college.”
She also spent five and a half years teaching English in South Korea.
“Every time I came home, it was about coming to the markets,” she said.
Her return last year coincided with the announcement that Cohen was leaving. Iruk said she met Cohen in college, which made the transition unique. And the market manager position was a perfect fit for her.
“Good food has always been a big part of my life,” she said.
Serving as market manager is a part-time gig, and Iruk also works at the Willy Street Co-op in Madison.
“I’m trying to enjoy the friends and family I haven’t had time to spend with in the past few years,” she said.
She described herself as the typical Wisconsin woman. She enjoys the outdoors, particularly hiking, biking and running. And, she loves the growing season.
“When it comes to fresh produce, I’m like a little kid at Christmas,” she said.
But she also catches herself eating sweet rolls at the market.
“I can’t help myself,” she said. “They’re so good.”
Even though she doesn’t see any major changes for the market, it doesn’t mean Iruk is letting the market rest on its laurels.
Instead, she’s absorbing the market and its details, making notes of a few possible changes.
Space at Ahuska Park is somewhat limited, as the plans are to keep the market on the blacktop area and off the grass. However, there is still some room to add a few vendors with only some slight modifications to the current layout.
Iruk has been making notes on what products are not offered by vendors, and it is her hope to possibly track down and lure vendors with those products to the market.
“I love working with Stacy; she’s brought great new energy to the market,” said Suzanne Wade, president of the farmers market steering committee. “We have a number of new vendors, including a beer jelly and a salsa vendor. I know that everyone who attends the market loves her welcoming smile and ability to make new things happen.
“I’ve been with the market from the start, and it’s great to see that every year our market manager has brought something new to the market, and Stacy’s time is just beginning.”
Also, at the most recent Sunday event, the Monona Farmers’ Market debuted the Double Dollars program.
This is an incentive program for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Foodshare users offering a dollar-for-dollar match for all EBT transactions up to $25.
The program, coordinated by the Community Action Coalition, is only offered through four farmers markets in Dane County and will run the end of the season in Monona.