La Plata looks to alter farmer’s market for the better
Looking to lower costs, provide options for vendors
The Town of La Plata has hosted a weekly farm- er’s market for some time, a gathering place for the public to enjoy year-round fresh produce and goods. The market is held on two separate days during the week and has encouraged a healthy eating lifestyle for locals.
Town of La Plata Planning Technician Seth Koons has identified a number of proposed changes to the existing farmer’s market rules that will require chang- es to the fees and how the twice-weekly event is structured. At a Feb. 21 work session, Koons sug- gested that the town council consider fee changes and new rules intended to give the market an im- proved level of structure as it continues to grow.
“We’ve taken what the daily rate is for an existing Saturday and Wednesday and we have pushed that into two separate season- al fees for vendors who could only come on Satur- days but were paying for a full seasonal fee. Now they can pay for just a Saturday or Wednesday seasonal fee,” Koons said.
“Today’s farmer’s mar- ket vendors are run by season, a full year or day-to-day. Day-to-day is difficult for us because we don’t have the mon- ey upfront and we don’t know how many people are going to be a member. From an administrator standpoint, it has been difficult to track different vendors and deadlines of their application and renewals. This system will set up a mechanism for when to apply and then we can promote it,” said Planning Director Jeremy Hurlbutt.
The new fees reflect the removal of the old “seasonal” and “daily” fees and would establish the following new fees: Saturday’s daily rate at $14.25 and seasonal dues at $105; Wednesday daily rate at $9.75 and seasonal dues at $70; holiday daily rate at $9.75 and seasonal dues at $77.50. Koons said the new fees would benefit vendors who wish to only partake on each of Saturday or Wednesday as it would save them $34 and $69, respectively.
The staff also suggest- ed rule changes for the establishment of regular and holiday seasons; a new vendor attendance policy; a new vendor fee schedule reflecting the established seasons; trash receptacle requirements; food standard rules and a new fee schedule.
According to staff, there are currently a doz- en vendors on Saturday and seven or eight that show up on Wednesdays.
Koons believes the establishment of “set sea- sons” will allow the mar- ket master (Koons) to more effectively assign vendor spaces and will give new vendors and the community a better understanding of when the market operates.
“I anticipate and have received some initial pushback from some vendors. Those vendors that do both a Saturday and a Wednesday will be seeing a $36 increase from what they previously paid. However, there are vendors that only come on one day, every week who are saving money,” Koons said.
Additionally, the new at- tendance policy will allow for the market master to ensure any spaces that are “claimed” by vendors who do not attend the market can be reassigned to vendors who wish to use the space. Town Manager Daniel Mears said the idea is not to put more fees out to vendors, but instead to provide more flexibility for them.
“This is much more for creating structure and giving this market an opportunity to grow more in the future. Hopefully it will be better for all of the vendors because there’s more choice there and opportunity for more customers,” Mears said.
The general consensus of the town council is to allow the changes in fees and structure. The regular farmer’s mar- ket would operate on a set “season” from April through October, and the holiday market period would run from November through February. The market will be open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays in the parking lots of the Charles County Courthouse.
“We’re proud of our farmer’s market,” said Mayor Roy G. Hale. “Many of the vendors have been around for a long time. They always come back, the people are accustomed to them and a lot of people stop by.”
The staff recommended that the market fees schedule be amended in Chapter 101 of the Town Code and be completed before April 8 to then be incorporated as part of the FY18 fee schedule so that the holiday market fees may be established before the start of the holiday season.