Rain, pop-up stores contribute to few farmers market vendors
Many vendors lined the street at the Farmers Market¿s original home on Depot Street in the summer of 2009. Crews had recently finished pouring the new sidewalk for the market. The work was part of a $909,000 renovation project planned for Depot Street that city officials hope to resume this fall. Currently farmers are selling their wares at various locations around town, including Tractor Supply on the Bypass and the Kentucky Bank location downtown. (James Mannfirstname.lastname@example.org)
Two vendors out of the six belonging to the farmers market were at the Bypass location July 16.
Molly Stotts, a farmers market member and one of the two vendors there, said the retirement of the market’s biggest vendor and the spring rains, which are causing people to have to replant several times, are contributing to a lower participation. She also said there aren’t as many local growers as in the past.
Stotts said people may not know that the market now accepts growers from other counties. Also, vendors may sell foods from other areas if the crops are not yet in season in Clark County and if no one from Clark County is selling that same crop.
Once a farmers market member brings a Clark County-grown version of the crop into the market, the farmer who brought an outside product in is asked to put it away until the local crop is sold.
Members also pay a yearly fee (which was $25 this year), new members must have their crops inspected to make sure they’re growing them themselves, and vendors must clean up their mess after selling days.
The market was founded in 1987 and has had 15 or 20 vendors in the past, but Stotts said now there are few Clark County farmers growing for resale on a farmers market scale. She said people don’t realize the benefit of growing their own crops or how easy it is.
“Education is always key, and … I’ve been to a lot of conferences in the last few years where people are learning about sustainable farming. … You don’t have to be certified organic to be sustainable, to be able to grow your own food,” she said, adding that people don’t need a large amount of land to grow. “I’m growing on one acre.”
Stotts said she’s met people in their 20s and 30s who are growing their own food, and some are making a living off of it.
“I don’t know why Clark County’s not learning that lesson,” she said. “It’s really really sad that young people aren’t figuring this out.”¿
Tracy Pesina, president of the Clark County Farmers Market, was the other vendor selling last weekend. She said pop-up markets around town without location or time regulations hurt the farmers market, because people wanting to buy local think those vendors are part of the farmers market.
“If they would come together, it’d be a whole lot better, but they don’t want to do that because we have a few rules … and they don’t like that,” she said, adding that they want to be able to do their own thing.
“It’ll probably end up making us sell where we want to sell at, not sell as a group anymore, and that’s sad to say because I’ve been selling in the market itself since it opened,” Pesina said.
The market moved from its original Depot Street location last June to the Bypass Road location because of the $909,000 renovation project planned for Depot Street, with the intent to go back to Depot Street after the project was completed.
City Manager Ken Kerns said the project, delayed several times and for several years because of funding changes, will probably begin its second phase in late fall.
Kerns said he thought if the farmers market would find a permanent home back on Depot Street after its renovations are completed, things would improve for the market.
Stotts said the move has created confusion about where the market is. She said that while she liked the Depot Street location better because of the safer and less noisy atmosphere, most people like the Bypass location because of the traffic that draws in customers.
“I don’t like the noise, I¿don’t like the traffic. I love downtown, and I¿did better downtown, but that’s just me,” she said. “It’s a really nice atmosphere down there. And I’ve had a lot of people say ‘I wish you would move back down there.’”
“I’d move back down there, but I’d probably be back by myself,” she said.
Stotts expressed optimism for a higher turnout this weekend, because people’s crops are coming back in.
“I just wish we could get more vendors in and more cooperation with the other farmers,” Pesina said. “I don’t think what we ask is too much as far as growing it and stuff.”¿
The farmers market is located at the Tractor Supply Company, 1500 Bypass Road, and it’s open 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays.
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com or follow her Twitter, @TheSunKatie.