By SHIRLEY PULAWSKI
OBSERVER Staff Writer
The fate of the farmers' market in Fredonia was on the agenda Monday night at a village board workshop.
OBSERVER Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Greg Krauza from the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce spoke to the board of trustees in front of audience members, shown above, at a Fredonia Village Board meeting to explain why he feels the Chamber of Commerce should run the Fredonia farmers’ market.
Members of Festivals Fredonia and the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce each made a case for why their organization should be the entity chosen by the village board to oversee the market.
Greg Krauza of the Chamber of Commerce spoke to the village board first, citing existing staff and grant writing experience at the local level. He said the market's purpose is aligned with that of the Chamber's, "to promote agri-business, small business and provide a service to make the community a better place to live."
Krauza explained the organization is not-for-profit and would strive to be "as self-sufficient as possible" in the regular operation of the market. He said some Chamber members had experience running farmers' markets in other locations. Chamber President Todd Tranum, he explained, helped set up Jamestown's farmers' market. He said the Chamber took over Dunkirk's farmers' market last year when it was down to one vendor.
"We were able to at least get it operational," he explained.
Krauza also said the Chamber has spoken with the United States Department of Agriculture and would not have problems adding another market to its Electronic Benefits Transfer account to accept nutritional assistance program funds formerly known as food stamps.
Fredonia's market is not in need of great development, he explained. "It's not broken. It doesn't need to be fixed," he said, and said the Chamber would seek to increase traffic to the market.
"Whether expanding means bringing in more artists or vendors or to increase foot traffic, ... we don't know yet," Krauza said. Children's entertainment was also mentioned as a potential draw for visitors, and "Education will be a big part of what we do," he said, and explained farm-to-table programs, nutrition, outreach to migrant farmers, blood pressure and vision screening and other activities would be part of the market if the Chamber were selected to run it.
The floor was opened for questions, and several residents and market vendors had questions for Krauza.
Market vendor Peter Calanni of Gong Garden Farm CSA (community-supported agriculture) said he contacted the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce via email before the meeting and was disappointed in the response he received. "You said you couldn't say anything," he explained, and added, "This is my livelihood."
Krauza replied it "wouldn't be appropriate" to discuss plans until the Chamber had been selected as the managing agency for the market.
Fredonia resident Vickey Kaiser asked Krauza if the vendors would be required to join the Chamber of Commerce to remain vendors. Krauza explained they would not be required to be Chamber members but a discount may be offered to Chamber members. He said the market would be run similar to the way it has been run and he did not anticipate an increase in vendor fees.
After Krauza's presentation was complete, Christine Burdick and Mary Jane Starks of Festivals Fredonia presented their case to the board as to why their organization wished to run the market. "Like the Chamber, the goals of the Fredonia farmers' market align with the mission of Festivals Fredonia," Burdick explained, and added the market already partners with Festivals Fredonia for certain events.
Stark explained the organization is all-volunteer, and seeks to "benefit the entire community. ... We're here to promote the community."
Stark said vendors would "have a say on how their market would be run," and one vendor would be a voting member on the board of the organization. However, she said an on-site manager, hired as a private contractor, would be solicited from outside the organization and would not be a vendor.
Festivals Fredonia also claims to have the support of the majority of the vendors from the market. Margaret Bruegel of Roo Haven Farm said she was selected to represent the vendors at the meeting. "Over the summer, 500-800 people were drawn down to Church Street to put a face on their food," she said of the market, and said this season showcased over 20 local farms, four green houses, over 20 artists and craftspeople, and two food producers. She explained a petition to select Festivals Fredonia as the managing entity was supported by "the majority of the farmers." She said the petition had only been developed a week ago and already had over 100 signatures, but she explained making contact with vendors had been challenging because many are rural, some don't have email and some were out of town.
Bruegel reiterated Kaiser's question, and said many vendors "are afraid they are going to be pressured to join the Chamber." She said some of them have been members in the past and, "don't wish to pursue that now."
Both organizations asked to continue use of the on-site shed, tables and other market assets which were purchased by the village with grant money, and both said soliciting local sponsorship and grant money would be part of plans to run the market. Further, both would have staff on-site during market hours to oversee operations, maintain cleanliness and resolve problems, and whichever organization would provide insurance and other legal requirements set forth by the village.
Trustees Joseph Cerrie and Adam Brown questioned whether the vendors had interacted with the Chamber and encouraged dialog between the two groups "so (the discussion) isn't one-sided," Cerrie explained.
Village mayor Stephen Keefe explained the night's meeting would be a discussion and no action would be taken as he believed "board members would have a lot to think about and talk over before making any decision."
"We've had two great organizations here tonight, both doing great things in the community, willing to come in and keep this going. Now that's a positive thing," Keefe said, and thanked them for coming. He also thanked Barbara Sam, who was present at the meeting and is stepping down as manager of the market. No other business was discussed and the meeting was adjourned.
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