NEW FOR THURSDAY: Planned Berlin Farmers Market Relocation Upsets Vendors

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BERLIN — For the first time since its founding two decades ago, the Berlin Farmers Market might be leaving downtown.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, the move will be a win-win for farmers and Berlin, serving to free-up much needed parking space downtown while giving farmers two new, larger locations to operate from.

However, several of those same farmers are passionately opposed to the re-location, saying it was decided without their consent and could doom the market.

The announcement to re-locate the market to Stephen Decatur Park on Fridays and Henry Park on Wednesdays has met a stonewalling of dissent from vendors.

Carrie Bennett of Bennett’s Orchard labeled the re-location a potential “death knell” for the market, as leaving the downtown risked the loss of crucial foot traffic, in her opinion.

“The most successful [markets] are always located at town centers,” she asserted.

Operating only Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings to early afternoon, the current location on Main Street draws significant business from day trippers and shoppers walking around town, said Bennett. Though moving the gathering to area parks would only increase the distance from the town center slightly, she argued that the loss of pedestrian traffic would be devastating.

“It’s that visibility we’re talking about,” she said. “You won’t have that sort of cross pollination.”

Paul Wood of A&W Farm also feared the new sites would not be able to provide enough visitors to support vendors. Wood expects that visitors would most likely drive to the markets, a scenario that both he and Bennett feel directly contradicts Berlin’s efforts to be a sustainable community.

“The present downtown location is critical to the success of the market, just as it is in farmers’ markets located in town centers throughout Delmarva,” Bennett wrote in a letter to the editor. “The downtown farmers’ market provides pedestrian and bicycle access along with an increase in customers for Berlin’s local businesses. Isn’t this the essence of sustainability?”

While respectful of the vendor’s concerns, Berlin Chamber Executive Director Aaren Collins promised the re-location would not be nearly as harmful as some farmers believe.

“We do everything in our power to make sure that the farmers market succeeds and grows,” she said.

In order to facilitate the transition, Collins explained that signage will be in place directing visitors to the new sites. There will also be a push for media coverage of the transfer to make sure that new and returning market customers are aware.

As far as a loss of foot traffic, while the parks are both somewhat off the beaten path, Collins believes that between signage and word of mouth there won’t be any drop in visitation of the market.

“It’s a small move,” she said. “It’s a good move.”

Both parks also have the added bonus of proximity to Route 113, which Collins believes will result in extra highway customers and both spots have electric available. On the town’s end, re-locating the market will free-up the parking lot that currently hosts the event, which she believes is needed given the town’s recent growth.

Neither Bennett nor Wood felt that gaining parking was an adequate reason to move the market from its traditional location.

“Basically it’s a lack of planning when you start to go into the parking issue,” said Wood.

Bennett explained that the vendors would be willing to “discuss parking options” with the town but felt like they are being kicked out with the way things stand. The worst part, she continued, is that the announcement of the re-location was made without first meeting with the farmers to consider other options.

“It wasn’t discussed. We were just informed,” said Bennett.

Bennett, Wood and many of the other vendors who comprise the market plan to attend the town council’s Monday, Oct. 22 meeting to air their complaints. They are asking for any interested or concerned members of the community to attend as well.

The chamber also hopes to hold a meeting with farmers next Wednesday.

4 comments on “NEW FOR THURSDAY: Planned Berlin Farmers Market Relocation Upsets Vendors

  1. Quite obviously this is a situation of very poor planning on the Town’s part. At least two new ventures (both restaurants) have opened in the last couple months without benefit of any off-street parking. So, though invited to form a market downtown to help revitalize the downtown nearly 20 years ago, the market is now expendable so provide parking for businesses that haven’t been required to do so.

  2. TOTALLY against the move….moving is bad enough, plus they wanna do different places different days. Could be confusing to some people! NOT FAIR!

  3. First a clarification. Paul Wood’s quality greenhouse growing operation is A & W Farms, but I feel assured that his Berlin customers know who you meant. Paul Wood and Carrie Bennett, both quoted in your article, represent 2 out of approximately 16 farm businesses that make up this market, and they all feel the same. These farm businesses have provided local, fresh products to Downtown Berlin and many, many people who come into downtown Berlin one or two days a week to purchase, and meet their friends, at our Farmer’s Market. We love our customers, and find it deplorable that a hand full of town officials have put both the market vendors’ livelihoods and THEIR town residents and visitors at risk by thinking that moving a thriving downtown business will have no impact on it’s future success. A successful, productive business has the same 3 characteristics as a well marketed home….Location, Location, Location!

  4. A trip to the farmers market is a day we also shop in downtown Berlin,have lunch in downtown Berlin and spend the afternoon.If you move the farmers market we most likely will only go to the market.As a customer I feel that we support all of downtown Berlin on market day and that will no longer happen.This needs to be thought about some more before you actually make this change as it will hurt the farmers market.

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