At its Monday night meeting, the farmers market advisory council (FMAC) voted to disband the broadening inclusion group (BIG), after seven of BIG’s nine members had already resigned.
Their resignations came after a post on Facebook made by the group, which included the statement, “Our hearts break for every lost, angry, and aimless young black man and woman who commit violent crimes and claim the lives of other black men, black women, and black children—their lives matter.” The statement was denounced as racist by several hundred commenters.
Monday nights FMAC vote to disband the BIG was 6–1, with two absences, which were caused in part by audio difficulties that made parts of the meeting, conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, difficult to follow.
What are the next steps after the vote to disband the BIG?
Responding to an emailed question from The Square Beacon, Paula McDevitt, Bloomington’s director of parks and recreation, said staff will be reviewing the FMAC chat and transcript of the recorded comments. “We will share them with the board of park commissioners,” McDevitt said.
In a 3–0 vote at their regular meeting on Tuesday, Bloomington park commissioners approved a reduction in the fee that food and artisan vendors are supposed to pay for their space at the Bloomington farmers market.
The new official fee for the 2020 market season will be 7.5 percent of gross sales, which is 2.5 points lower than the fee that was charged in previous years. It’s not as much of a reduction as the farmers market advisory council had recommended, which was 5 percent this year, with an eye towards converting it to a flat fee.
It’s not a fee that’s going to be charged, though, according to Becky Higgins, recreation services division director. The market won’t be able to operate as it usually does, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The food and beverage artisan area at Bloomington’s farmers market during the 2019 season.
The dark blue is the amount of revenue generated by food and beverage vendors at Bloomington’s farmers market.
Bloomington parks commissioners from left: Les Coyne,
At the podium is Eric Schedler, of Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery, who advocated for a reduction in fees for food and beverage artisans at Bloomington’s farmers market.
At its Tuesday meeting, a short-handed board of park commissioners decided on a split vote to reject the city staff’s proposed fee structure for food and beverage artisans in the coming season at Bloomington’s farmers market.
Bloomington parks and recreation staff will now work to come up with an alternate fee structure proposal for food and beverage artisans.
Forrest Gillmore demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019.
Thomas Westgard demonstrates at the farmers market on Nov. 9, 2019. Sarah Dye, the vendor against whom Westgard is protesting, captures the scene on her smart phone.
Forrest Gillmore, in his unicorn suit, is lead away by police officers on Nov. 9, 2019
Members of the farmers market advisory council at their meeting on Nov. 18, 2019.
Vauhxx Booker addresses the farmers market advisory council on Nov. 18.
At Monday’s meeting of the farmers market advisory council, held in Bloomington’s city council chambers, few answers about the future of the market could be gleaned from the group’s discussion. That’s partly because the group’s role is just advisory, to the city’s four-member board of park commissioners.
Department administrator for the parks and recreation department, Paula McDevitt, told the advisory council “[W]e do not have an announcement tonight about the future of the market…”
What makes the future uncertain has been a season of protests against a vendor with alignment to white-supremacist groups. The market was suspended for two weeks in late July amid concerns about possible violence.
At Monday’s meeting, the market’s coordinator, Marcia Veldman, said attendance was off by about half compared to previous years. The last couple of years, the market has seen around a quarter million visitors in the course of a season, according to the city of Bloomington’s data portal.
For several vendors, the timeframe for making a decision about whether sell at the market next year is short. Rebecca Vadas is a honey vendor who also sits on the farmers market advisory council. She said at Monday’s meeting that she had to make a decision by mid-December. One of the decisions she has to make is how many bees to buy. “We’re all at a crossroads,” she said.