As farmers market season nears, some communities find the logistics and other issues hard to swallow

Volunteers, financial pressures don't grow on you
Posted at 8:00 AM, Apr 08, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-10 13:56:16-04

CINCINNATI -- Anderson Township's farmers market will continue at least one more season, but it needs to have a new sponsor to take over in 2018 or it's going to disappear.

The township will continue to host the market this summer, but ultimately, the township doesn't want to be in the farmers market business, said Steve Sievers, assistant administrator for operations. The indoor market was previously canceled.

It's a challenge that small community farmers markets struggle with -- keeping the doors (or parking lot in many cases) open with volunteers, fluctuating finances and keeping a good location. In Ohio especially, township budgets have shrunk over the last decade, making local government support difficult.

Vegetables are stacked high at the Madeira Farmers Market.

"There's just not the financial backing," Sievers said. "There was never a market organization, it was a very loose group."

In the last year, Loveland Farmers Market also dealt with a financial blow -- Madeira reorganized to survive, and markets like Lettuce Eat Well and the Fort Thomas Farmers Market found new locations.

Loveland's Farmers Market had a disagreement with the city over fees, and they are still waiting for the council to approve the final fees in April.

Donald Woodruff, head of the market's committee, said the city originally wanted a $1,500 event fee, something the market never paid in the past, but it's basically resolved now, he said.

A sunny day of shopping at the Madeira Farmers Market.

Through a lot of negotiating, the fee dropped to $200 to cover all the vendors. A proposed background check for each vendor that would have licensed each vendor has been reduced to just the organizer fee.

"It would have been closer to $2,000 to cover the vendors," Woodruff said.

Vendors will only pay a fee to the organizer for their summer booth.

"We're going to survive and make a go of it," Woodruff said. 

In Anderson, like other locations, volunteers are at a premium, Sievers said. It's a lot of work setting up, tearing down and standing on hot pavement.

"There's just not a flock of new volunteers saying they'll run the show," he said.

Anderson isn't planning on meeting the annual start of farmers markets in the area, which usually happens in early May. Their Saturday market won't open until May 27 and runs through Sept. 30, but even those dates could depend on the vendors, said Sievers. Only previous vendors can apply.

Most markets offer baked goods like this bread at the Madeira Farmers Market.

Mary Hutten of the Lettuce Eat Well Farmers Market agrees running a farmers market is a lot of work.

"It's my passion," Hutten said, adding that it wouldn't be worth it otherwise.

Her market is moving to the Cheviot School gym after realizing they needed more consistent space. Hutten limits the number of vendors, but said it's well-attended.

Anderson wants the market to survive, but it will depend on local support.

"Our hope is to find a long-term home for the market," Sievers said.

The township hopes to find a business or organization willing take on the market and provide assistance.

Farmers Market Details