La Plata looks to al­ter farmer’s mar­ket for the bet­ter

Look­ing to lower costs, pro­vide op­tions for ven­dors

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

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.

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