Farmers and Town Seek Ways to Work Together for Mutual Benefit
The majority of the vendors of the Downtown Berlin Farmers Market and representatives from the Town of Berlin met recently to discuss ways the popular market could remain at its current location while also formalizing a partnership with the Berlin Main Street Program to grow and diversify the market’s appeal, while keeping the character of a farmer’s market.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams, Council Member Lisa Hall and Michael Day, director of town Economic and Community Development, and Coordinator of the Berlin Main Street Program, met with market vendors at town hall to seek common ground on a number of issues and develop a long-term strategy for the future of the Berlin Farmers Market.
The 90-minute discussion covered a variety of topics including the Town of Berlin making a long-term commitment to keeping the Farmers Market in Downtown Berlin, possible ways the town could help promote this year-round destination and the updating of existing rules and regulations developed by the Berlin Farmers Market during their 19-year sponsorship by the Berlin Chamber of Commerce.
The discussion also included the Town’s interest in having an annual presentation at a regular meeting of the Mayor and Council. There was mutual agreement among the vendor group and town representatives in creating an Agricultural Heritage Weekend, supported by coordination from the Farmer’s Market group. The weekend would be one of the Berlin Main Street Program’s annual events, jointly promoted by the market and the town, to celebrate the community’s past and continuing agricultural heritage.
“I believe everyone at the meeting found that we have much to gain by working together, and much to lose, if we do not,” said Mayor Gee Williams. “I am confident that within the next couple of months and well before next spring, we can accomplish much because our discussion enabled all parties to share all the ways we can benefit Berlin’s residents, visitors and the larger business community by building on what we already have in common.”
Among the immediate items to be addressed by the Farmers Market vendors is the need to formally establish a new Advisory Board and to fill the current vacancy of Market Master, who acts as a leader among the vendors, and a liaison with the public and now with the Town of Berlin. The proposed Advisory Board would include nine members: Michael Day and Council Member Hall; the Market Master; two market vendors; two representatives of Berlin’s business community; and two Berlin community members.
During the transition, vendors Paul and Susan Wood of A&W Farm and Sassafras Meadows Farm, are the acting spokespersons for the Berlin Farmers Market vendors until a new Advisory Board is established.
“With 20 years of history and loyal customers here, I can say that we are very pleased to be staying in downtown Berlin,” said Paul Wood of A & W Farms. “We, as a Market, are looking forward now to a new partnership with the Main Street Berlin Program, while maintaining the character and high quality of our Downtown Berlin Farmer’s Market, and continuing to self govern within established rules and regulations, in addition to having an active Advisory Board.”
Susan Wood, of Sassafras Meadows Farm, added, “We owe thanks to the Berlin Chamber of Commerce for originating the idea of a market in downtown Berlin 20 years ago, and for its many years of support. And most importantly, we owe a debt of gratitude to our ‘customers and friends’ for realizing our value to their community, believing in us as quality grower producers, and supporting us famously in our struggle to stay in their downtown. Thank you!”
As soon as the new Advisory Board is formed, the group will begin to formulate both short-term and long-range planning and a proposal that will be presented to the Mayor and Council seeking the formation of the Downtown Berlin Farmers Market as a partner with Berlin’s Main Street Program.