Cultivate Hope Urban Farm’s farmers market opens for its second year, with new features and activities

Vegetables grown at Matthew 25’s urban farm in Cedar Rapids. — photo courtesy of Matthew 25.

Cultivate Hope Market, the farmers market of Cultivate Hope Urban Farm in Cedar Rapids, will open for its second year on Thursday. Cultivate Hope, founded in 2012, was the first farm in Iowa started inside a city’s limits. Both the farm and the market are projects of Matthew 25.

The Cedar Rapids nonprofit, which takes its name from a biblical passage in which Christ stressed the importance of helping those in need (“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”), was started in 2006 to “help strengthen and elevate neighborhoods on the west side of Cedar Rapids,” according to its website. Matthew 25’s neighborhood improvement efforts focus on three things: food, housing and education.

The farm is located on two acres in the northwest part of the city. Its location had previously been the site of several houses, but they were heavily damaged in the flood of 2008 and eventually torn down. Post-flood restrictions on rebuilding meant no houses could be built on the land.

After years of having a stand in NewBo City Market, selling fruits and vegetables grown without the use of herbicide or pesticide, Cultivate Hope opened its own farmers market last year.

“Looking back at our first year of farmers markets on the urban farm, we really zeroed in on the types of produce people want and adjusted our crops accordingly,” Matthew 25 Education Coordinator Laura Greig told Little Village. “This year, we’re going to have seasonal recipes each week that use ingredients found at that market, that way shoppers can prevent food waste from not knowing how to use the produce available at that market.”

That isn’t the only change.

“This year we’re expanding on the community aspect of the market, and we’ll have a bunch of items from local vendors,” said Emily Bettridge, Matthew 25’s business development and marketing coordinator.

The local items include Skyline Farm jellies and jam, Belle’s Beautiful Bees honey, candles from Gravel Road Candle Company, Equal Exchange fair trade coffee and garden- and nature-themed artwork from Impressions by Amy.

Cultivate Hope will also be selling reusable shopping bags for $5, which double as a customer loyalty perk, Bettridge explained.

“Every time someone uses their bags, they’ll get a dollar off their produce,” she said.

The market will open at 4 p.m. on Thursday, and in addition to the fresh fruit and vegetables and other items on sale, there will be a chair yoga session, taught by Cindy Hathaway from Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, as well as a walking group.

“We’ll be doing the walking group every week, and once or twice a month we’ll have another movement activity,” Bettridge said. “Next week will be tai chi.”

Cultivate Hope Market in Cedar Rapids will be open each Thursday through October, from 4-7 p.m., at 437 G Ave NW. Proceeds from the market go to support Matthew 25.

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