By Noelle H. Lowery
It was a scene unfamiliar to the members of Marco Island’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. Twenty community members attended the committee’s special workshop Aug. 5 focused on the future of the Farmers’ Market.
These 20 individuals were all market vendors. In attendance representing city staff were City Manager Roger Hernstadt, the city’s Recreation Facilities Manager and Farmers’ Market Manager Alex Gliana and Community Events Coordinator Samantha Malloy. Sandi Reidemann and Jacquie Koon of the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce were present.
The workshop came on the heels of rising concern over suggested changes to the Farmers’ market, including limiting the number and type of vendors. The Chamber of Commerce recently surveyed its members on the issue. The results: Chamber members — for the most part — like the market just the way it is.
The vendors came prepared. Tiffany Smith presented PRAC and city staff with guidelines used by the Asheville, North Carolina, Farmer’s Market and suggested forming a vendor committee to open a line of communication between the vendors and the city.
Lisa Meurgue, a vendor and owner of local businesses Bistro Soleil and Petit Soleil, commented that the market does not negatively impact her business and allows her husband an opportunity to get out and speak with patrons face to face.
The general consensus among the PRAC members was the market is a victim of its own success. Dr. Gerald Swiacki suggested structuring fees based on location and preference given to local vendors, then county and then state. Litha Berger of PRAC echoed “why fix what’s not broken.” The only limitation on products discussed was to limit “department store” type items.
In the end, Hernstadt outlined the changes discussed:
First, a 10% increase to local vendors and a $100 increase to non-Marco based vendors. Second, a $100 fee for vendors who want to park their supply vehicles behind their booth along the outer perimeter. Finally, capping the number of vendor spaces at 110 this coming season.