The following is a statement about changes in the Farmers Market made by Megan Hutchison, District 5 City Council Candidate, at a news conference on March 12, 2011.
I called this press conference Thursday after learning about changes to the Saturday Market at City Hall. On Thursday morning, I attended a Citizen’s Breakfast hosted by City Council President Susan Sandberg, County Council President Julie Thomas and County Council, District Four Representative Sam Allison. The breakfast is held monthly and offers residents a welcoming environment to discuss issues of importance to them.
At the breakfast, we were all surprised to hear the new rules regarding tabling for community groups at the Farmers’ Market. A member of a nonprofit organization that frequently tables at the market learned that there would be fees to set up tables near the market. In the past, local organizations were able to participate in the Farmers’ Market to inform and engage community members for no cost. It’s a great way for farmers’ market customers to learn more about community events and how they can get involved in issues and organizations they are interested in.
The new rules stated that community groups would have to register with the city and pay a $10 registration fee + a $10 weekly fee. There was a space reserved on the west side of the B-Line trail for community groups to set up for free, but this area is far away from the hustle and bustle of the market and an unlikely location to attract many passers-by.
"After calling attention to the impact a fee structure would have on community groups tabling at the Saturday Market, Mayor Mark Kruzan, in cooperation with the Parks Board, announced yesterday that nonprofit organizations will not have to pay fees to participate in the Saturday Market."
I love the Farmers’ Market. It is on my to-do list every week. I feel good about buying vegetables from hard working local farmers and to know that by buying locally, I have a lighter footprint on the environment. Our Farmers’ Market has also been a positive economic development tool to attract a wide variety of community members, visitors and tourists from surrounding counties, and it attracts businesses to the downtown area.
Besides the promotion of local foods, it has benefited both large and small organizations that get up early on Saturday morning to set up information tables. These community organizations inform residents on issues of importance to our community, as well as promote volunteer opportunities at social service agencies and encourage other ways to engage with community organizations. As many of us know, nonprofits work on small budgets, and just this month social service agencies have been up against potential funding cuts at the federal level.
After calling attention to the impact a fee structure would have on community groups tabling at the Saturday Market, Mayor Mark Kruzan, in cooperation with the Parks Board, announced yesterday that nonprofit organizations will not have to pay fees to participate in the Saturday Market.
“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” I’m not usually one to quote people, but Margaret Mead knew what she was talking about. After hearing about the changes to the market, I called a number of local nonprofit groups to find out if they had heard about the changes and what impact it might have on them. Letters announcing the fee change were sent to some organizations that table, but not all. Some large community groups said they were surprised by the decision, and while they thought they could handle the fee, other small groups could not.
Not only does our Farmers’ Market increase food security and connect local growers and food producers to residents, it provides a space for both large and small community groups to advocate for causes, and inform and engage residents on a diversity of topics.
In my conversations yesterday, residents representing nonprofits understood the impact these policy changes would have and were rightly concerned that losing the voice of our smaller nonprofit groups would be a loss to our community. After Mayor Kruzan was informed of the policy changes, he too recognized the value of civic engagement and the role our nonprofit groups have in building a stronger, more informed community.
As a candidate for City Council in District 5, I support urban agriculture projects such as the Farmers’ Market and will continue to actively promote civic engagement on issues of import, such as today’s example, to all sectors of our community.
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Megan Hutchison for Council