Blue Ridge City Council yesterday voted to allow The Downtown Farmer’s Market to remain in the downtown location. The city had initially considered relocating vendors to the state farmer’s market on East First Street.
Last month, representing downtown vendors, Ande Cook petitioned city council requesting to let vendors remain in their current location, rather than relocating to the state farmer’s market located on East First Street, which vendors consider to be out-of-the-way as to not attract many customers.
Citizens came out yesterday afternoon to take part in the discussion and hear council’s decision, filling seats in the lobby of city hall. The crowd included vendors and supporters from both the downtown market and the state market location. Cook was again present at yesterday’s meeting.
“We still believe what’s best for Blue Ridge for both locals and for our tourist economy is to keep the downtown farmers’ market open, because it’s a place that (sic) people can stumble upon while they’re in the city,”
“There’s nothing convenient about the state farmers’ market. It’s out of the way; you’re never just going to come upon it. It just doesn’t offer the same experience that our farmers’ market does.”
Later, the state market was described as a gravel pit, offending some state market supporters. Others, though, didn’t necessarily oppose the downtown market, but felt the state market also has potential to benefit the city.
“It’s a market that’s an asset to our community,”
Good Samaritan Organizer Carlie Hammond said about the state market.
“I think it’s a shame if we can’t use it productively.”
Blue Ridge recently finished almost $40,000 in renovations to the state market, including restroom repairs and the installation of handicap access.
But, most supporters of the downtown market also supported the idea of the two markets co-existing. Cook even suggested that downtown vendors could sell at the state market location on Wednesdays, since the downtown market is held only on Saturdays. Annie Shumway, though, said all vendors should go to the state market, arguing that vendors can sell year-round there. Downtown vendor Cheryl Osborne, who sells her homemade soap, however, said she had no customers last year when she set-up at the state market. As such, she said moving all vendors to the state market will destroy their businesses.
“The (downtown) market provided a way for me to make a living. I started making soap three years ago and just being at the downtown Blue Ridge Farmers’ Market, my business has grown tremendously,”
she said. Another vendor, Baker Sarah Queen had a similar story, saying the state market “just doesn’t work.” Queen said if forced to move, she would have to get another job working part-time.
In her comments, Cook said downtown vendors would even be willing to change the name, eliminating “Farmers’” from the title. The name change would presumably serve two purposes. First, it would alleviate confusion, distinguishing the downtown market from the state market. Second, omitting “Farmers’” from the title would clarify that not all goods sold at the market are produce or edible.
After an hour of comments, Council Member Michael Eaton made a motion allowing vendors to stay downtown, but requested the downtown market help to promote and build the state market, by utilizing the East First Street location during the week. Council Member Rhonda Thomas added to the motion that vendors would change the name of the market. The vendors agreed and the motion was passed unanimously, met by a roar of applause.