I have been buying produce from the local Farmers Market for more years than I can remember. But a week ago for the first time, I went as a vendor of fresh herbs. I also wanted to see what it was like to sell product at the Park & Ride location. It was frustrating.
Being a vendor is hard work - fresh product, layout, knowledge and personality are equally important. I have great respect for those that sell their wares at the Market. The vendor stands are a small business and having customers is all about selling a good product and location. Location. Location.
It was great visiting with the small crowd that came to the Market and those who asked me about herbs and recipes. This is when I realized the Farmers Market is not just about vendors and customers; it's about building community and trusting relationships. The vendors care about the people who come to the Market. They look for their regular customers and meeting new people. The usual customer shopping time is 15-20 minutes. That's fast turnover with people walking and vehicles moving.
The Park & Ride location for the Farmers Market is poor at best. I observed customers unsure of where to park - the gravel lot (now filled with construction equipment and debris), the lot with the vendors or along Hwy. 19. All have serious safety issues for pedestrians and vehicles.
The vendors deserve better than this. The customers deserve safe access. The customer count is down this year and some vendors I spoke with were considering no longer coming as their profit margin is way down. It would be a terrible shame to see the Market dry up.
I am asking that the City Council strongly reconsider their decision to change the location of the Farmers Market. Please move the Market back to the downtown site, where customers can safely access it and also shop at the downtown businesses. Should the Council receive protest from the trail users or others, maybe designated parking signs or alternate parking locations could be considered.
I urge anyone who is in support of having the Farmers Market moved back to the downtown parking lot to call or write the City Council or send your letters to the Beacon. Please come together to support the Market and build community.