Hiatus for farmers market
For three months last summer, the Fort Getty pavilion became the place to be on Mondays. The firstyear farmers market, with its mixture of growers and artisans, drew people from across the state.
It now appears the market will not have a second season. Organizers have decided to move on to other endeavors.
In April 2013, a group of young entrepreneurs – Heidi Doyle, Leah Rosin-Pritchard and Will Wilson – were having dinner when they began discussing the island’s farms. Their conversation led to an idea.
“There are so many farms on the island, we thought it would be great to be able to get all of the products at one time at one farmers market,” Doyle said. “And wouldn’t it be great to highlight local artists as well. It came together very easily. Everyone was excited about it.”
It was Town Planner Lisa Bryer who suggested Fort Getty. The organizers sent a letter to the town councilors outlining their intentions, asking for the rental fee to be waived. The council embraced the idea.
“Our vision was to create a community outlet for Jamestown farmers and artists,” Doyle and Rosin-Pritchard co-wrote in a letter last week to the Jamestown Press. “Through word of mouth and community support, we envisioned a somewhat utopian situation of a thriving, self-sustaining market with little oversight. We wanted to highlight the existing farms while giving other artisans an opportunity to showcase their products.”
Once the project was approved, it was time to reach out to the farmers and artists to secure commitments for 2013. Each participant paid a fee of $75 for the season. The income helped organizers defray the costs of insurance, publicity and town vendor fees.
The farmers market was not without problems last year. There was a constant request from both vendors and customers to have more food to satisfy hungry shoppers and draw more people. Overall, however, the market was deemed a success, and the organizers fully intended to go ahead with a second year.
“It was great,” Doyle said. “It was a beautiful place to pass the hours. Everyone involved agrees we enjoyed memorable summer evenings under our beautiful pavilion.”
When the market came to fruition, Rosin-Pritchard was thrilled. A lot of time and effort went into planning, she said. “There was a seeming void in an abundant community. Our intention was to try and fill that, and see how much the community would gather to support our local producers. We created an ideal atmosphere and everyone’s enthusiasm stemmed from it. We love to gather and enjoy and appreciate where we come from.”
When the organizers met to begin planning for 2014, it became apparent the business at farmers markets is declining statewide. Attendance is off, which means farmers have to be careful about where they focus their efforts in their available time. The way to counteract the decline would be with a greater marketing effort – something Doyle and Rosin-Pritchard had second thoughts about.
“We heard a lot of feedback about ways we could improve,” Rosin-Pritchard said. “We had to make some major decisions.”
The demand for more food meant organizers would have to solicit vendors from off the island, something that is counter to the original concept. Bringing in out-oftown vendors would mean additional competition to the island businesses that serve food.
“It meant branching out from this solely island-based, island- produced market into something else,” Rosin Pritchard said. “It was a different kind of market from what we initially intended. We were looking at a year of really hard work, and a shift from what we had intended.”
The situation became increasingly complicated, and when an announcement in the Jamestown Press attracted only one new vendor, the writing was on the wall. Moreover, venders from last year were on the fence about 2014.
“With anything that continues to grow, there is inevitably more management that is needed,” the women wrote in their letter to the Press. “We have learned that running a farmers market is just like running a business, and unfortunately neither of us can devote the time needed to ensure that it continues to thrive.”
Despite the fact Doyle and Rosin Pritchard will no longer be involved in the farmers market, they are hopeful someone with more time, and perhaps more business acumen, can take over the market. Anyone interested can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“We are happy to hand the keys over and share what we know,” Doyle said.